ICTM Study Group Conference in Poland

This week the 14th symposium of ICTMs Study Group on Music Archaeology is being held in the archaeological museum of Biskupin, a beautiful village north of Poznan.

The museum is located at a site with extensive and rich excavations, and holds reconstructed buildings from the Neolithic onwards to the Middle Ages. A perfect place for an intimate conference like this.

The participants come mainly from Europe. Some papers, from Asia and America, are presented via Skype. Scandinavia is represented by Cajsa S. Lund (S), Hilde Nielsen (N) and myself. Our papers, which were presented on the first day, were about bullroarers (Cajsa), horns from the Iron Age (Hilde) and music bows/mouth arches (Gjermund).

Cajsa S. Lund’s paper “The Magic Bullroarer” discussed bullroarers (Swedish vinare) from a wide archaeological and ethnographic perspective. Bullroarers exist worldwide, and go far back in time. One of the oldest finds from the Dordogne in France, is made from reindeer horn and is between 10 000 and 16 000 years old. Lund discussed some uncertain interpretations of bullroarers of bones and slate. Traditionally bullroarers were made from wood. One of the most exciting parts of the lecture were stories about the use of this sound tool from recent times, for example, a Swedish source who told about bullroarers being used to scare off bats.

Hilde Nielsen is working on her PhD in Aberdeen, and her paper, titled “Horns of War: An Account of Musical Horns in Scandinavian History, Myth and Legend” is part of this work. She showed several findings of horns, or labrosones, which she used as a generic term for lip-vibrated instruments (whether tapered or cylindrical). Included in the material were the Danish findings of some lurs, from Holing and Herning. Several horns were decorated and coated with metal fittings, and it is apparent that these horns were valuable and prestigious.

In my own paper “The Musical Bow in Prehistorical Europe” I discussed music bows in Europe, on the basis of depictions and material objects. Southern Africa is a kind of core area for music bows and are they are also found in America, Oceania and parts of Asia. From Europe there are no known traditions, if we disregard related instruments the Bumbass (English “string and bladder”) and similar monochords. The prehistoric material is not large, and it is very difficult to identify musical bows and mouth bows. Some sources are more reliable than others. One of the most interesting archaeological finds is a rib from deer or elk from Mullerup in Denmark. The discovery is from a Maglemosian culture, and has been dated to 7000 BC. This bow was not used for hunting and one of the interpretations – from the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen – is that it was a mouth bow.

There will be more reports from the papers in Biskupin at musark.no.

Gjermund Kolltveit

Music archaeologist, ethnomusicologist, musician – Nesodden, Norway. Main research interests: sound and sound tools (e.g. jew’s harps, lyres, ringing stones, bells) in human culture and soundscapes.

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