Bar Kokhba Coin Trumpet and Lyre

Bar Kokhba coin depicting trumpet and lyre. By: IsraelXKV8RTallenna tiedosto – Wikimedia Commons –

Archaeologists are gradually recovering the remains of musical life from ancient Israel. More than three hundred remains of actual instruments and representations of musical scenes have been recorded. The dates of these items range from late pre-history to the Byzantine period, including a sizable number within the span from Biblical to Second Temple times, roughly 1,000 B.C. to the first century A.D.

Not long ago, these were “The Finds That Could Not Be.” In the 1940’s and 1950’s, an astonishing “consensus of nonexistence” came about, through several influential publications. As late as 1957, one of these stated-

“Of the instruments themselves [of Biblical times] not a single example has as yet come to light, and from the pre-Hellenistic period no native representation of a Palestinian instrument survives.”

An earlier survey, Musical Instruments in Israel (published in 1941 and reissued in 1961) gave reasons for this state of affairs-

“Due to the climate of the Holy Land, all the wood, reed, hide and gut which went into the ancient instruments long ago has disintegrated; and sculptured scenes showing musicians, which have taught us so much about the instrumentalists of Babylonia and Egypt, were forbidden by the Second Commandment.

Read the rest of Ancient Musical Instruments: The Finds That Could Not Be in the online Biblical Archaeology Society Library.