Tel Dothan

Tel Dothan. By Netanel h – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

A bone flute discovered in the City of David leads to another and elucidates a Talmudic passage

A cow’s foreleg with six holes was illustrated in color in “Digging in the City of David,” BAR 05-04.

Archaeologists identified the perforated bone as a flute; by blowing into the hollow bone and covering different holes, different notes could be produced. The bone flute, recovered from a destruction level of the first century A.D., was found in 1975 in the first year of the ongoing excavations in the City of David, the oldest inhabited part of Jerusalem. (See Yigal Shiloh and Mendel Kaplan, “Digging in the City of David,” BAR 05-04.)

Scholars working on publication of the finds from Tel Dothan, a site in northern Israel, saw the bone flute found at the City of David and suddenly remembered a strange bone they had found on the south slope of Dothan in 1962. Dating to the Roman/Byzantine period (first-sixth centuries A.D.), the 12 centimeter long bone has only one hole preserved, with possibly an edge of a second hole. The intact hole is eight centimeters wide.

Read the rest of Ancient Musical Instruments: How Scholarly Communication Works in the online Biblical Archaeology Society Library.