December 12, 2012

ArchaeoMusic*?

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 11:59 am

Send for the bard! Carnyx discovery leaves archaeologists little the wiser

In the Asterix* books, Cacofonix the bard is forbidden to sing because his voice causes wild boar, villagers, Normans and Romans alike to flee. But Cacofonix does play the carnyx, a long, slender trumpet-like instrument decorated with an animal’s head at the top end, and used by the Celts in the last three centuries BC.

The Greek historian Polybius (206-126BC) was so impressed by the clamour of the Gallic army and the sound of the carnyx, he observed that, “there were countless trumpeters and horn blowers and since the whole army was shouting its war cries at the same time there was such a confused sound that the noise seemed to come not only from the trumpeters and the soldiers but also from the countryside which was joining in the echo”.

When the remains of seven carnyx were unearthed recently, Christophe Maniquet, an archaeologist at Inrap, the national institute for preventive archaeological research (Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives), was curious to find out exactly what sound it produced when it drove the Romans mad, or was used to call upon the god Toutatis.

They’ve essentially tried to reconstruct one of the instruments, although it seems as if they have complete versions elsewhere? Anyway, here’s a YouTube clip of someone playing one:

Sounds like a weird cross between a trumpet, French horn, and didgeridoo if you ask me.

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