Nowadays considered the end of the vale of life, death was rarely seen as such in the ancient world – quite on the contrary, it was viewed as a great adventure. Such are the hypotheses that archaeology, the art of traveling across time, space, and cultures, provides. Despite their doubtless weirdness, these ideas may have a grain of truth in it, as the recent archaeological findings, particularly the soundbox found inside the Tomb of Queen Paubi, indicate (Digital Collections para. 8).
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As it often happens with various works of art that have stood the time test of several epochs, the creator of the harp and the invalid soundbox inside it is unknown. The same can be said about the place of the artwork’s origin – it is hard to define whether the soundbox together with the lyre was actually made by an artist living in the palace or any other place. Found in Ur, Iraq, the artifact is believed to have been made 4,400–4,600 years ago (Ancient and Medieval Art para. 6).
The materials that the soundbox is made of are quite diverse; in fact, the components of the artifact have made a number of archaeologists doubt whether the artwork in question actually is a soundbox and not a cash box used for collecting funds for various purposes, including warfare and religious projects. The framework of the soundbox is made of wood, shell, and red limestone, with an addition of gold and lapis lazuli, which cover most of the wooden elements.
The number of small details and minor elements in the soundbox is unbelievable; archeological researches have shown that the dark lines, which have made the aforementioned figures and small elements so vivid and detailed, were created with the help of hot iron application. It is peculiar that the artwork is split into two major parts, one is called “War,” and the other being respectively named “Peace.” The artwork is remarkably large (8.5 x 19.6’’, as Sumerian Shakespeare (para. 17) indicates, and 3’8 1/8’’ high (Ancient and Medieval Art para. 8)).
Despite the fact that the artwork does not have any inscriptions on it, defining the purpose of the soundbox is rather easy; being placed in the tomb of the queen, it is most likely supposed to be one of the elements of the queen’s earthly life, which were supposed to make the transition from the earthly life to the realm of the hereafter easier (Mesopotamia and Persia 38). The work seems to be in a fairly good condition. A rectangular box with decorations in front and on the backside, it is divided horizontally into four key zones with the help of four inlaid panels, figures of men-bulls and various animals, such as lions and bulls, decorating each of the latter (Kilmer 12). Neither the role of animals nor the role of people can be identified.
Though the soundbox can hardly be considered one of the most unusual findings ever made in archaeology and barely leads to any important discoveries, it still represents its era rather faithfully and leaves a lot of peculiar details for further interpretation. In a broader sense, the soundbox can be viewed as a symbol of music, which transcends epochs and joins the people belonging to different eras. An interesting specimen of archaeological findings, the bull-headed lyre clearly deserves more attention.
Ancient and Medieval Art. n. d. Web.
Kilmer, Anne Draffkorn. The Musical Instruments from Ur and Ancient Mesopotamian Music. 1998. Web.
Mesopotamia and Persia n. d. Web.
Sumerian Shakespeare. Exploration of the Royal Tombs of Ur. n. d. Web.