The carnyx was a wind instrument of the Iron Age Celts, used between c. 300 BC and c. AD 200. It was a type of bronze trumpet, held vertically, the bell styled in the shape of a boar's, or other animal's, head. It was used in warfare, probably to incite troops to battle and intimidate opponents. The instrument's upright carriage allowed it to be heard over the heads of the participants in battles or ceremonies.
The word “carnyx” is derived from the Gaulish root, "carn-" or "cern-" meaning "antler" or "horn," and the same root of the name of the god, Cernunnos (Delmarre, 1987 pp. 106–107). This is the name the Romans gave to the instrument. The original Celtic name is unknown. Even under torture, Carnyx players would not reveal the Celtic name of the instrument to the Romans.
Historical record 
Depiction in sculpture 
The instrument is known from depictions, on coins, and notably from the initiation scene of the Gundestrup cauldron.
The name is known from textual sources, carnyces are reported from the Celtic attack on the Delphi in 279 BC, as well as from Julius Caesar's campaign in Gaul and Claudius' invasion of Britain. Diodorus Siculus around 60-30 BC said (Histories, 5.30):
- "Their trumpets again are of a peculiar barbarian kind; they blow into them and produce a harsh sound which suits the tumult of war"
A well preserved example is the Deskford Carnyx, found at the farm of Leitchestown, Deskford, Banffshire, Scotland in 1816. It was donated to Banff Museum, and is now on loan from Aberdeenshire Museums Service to the National Museum of Scotland. The location and age of the Deskford Carnyx suggests the instrument had a peaceful, ceremonial use and was not only used in warfare. Until 2004, fragments of only four other carnyces had been preserved, but in November 2004 archaeologists discovered a first-century-BC foundation deposit of five well preserved carnyxes under a Gallo-Roman fanum at Tintignac (Corrèze, France). Four had boar's heads, the fifth appears to be a serpent.
Modern-day use 
The reconstruction of the Deskford Carnyx was initiated by Dr. John Purser, and commenced in 1991 funded jointly by the Glenfiddich Living Scotland award and the National Museums of Scotland. In addition to John Purser as musicologist, the team comprised the archaeologist Fraser Hunter, silversmith John Creed, and trombonist John Kenny. After 2,000 years of silence the reconstructed Deskford Carnyx was unveiled at the National Museum of Scotland in April 1993.
In 1993 John Kenny became the first person to play the carnyx for 2,000 years, and has since lectured and performed on the instrument internationally, in the concert hall, and on radio, television, and film. There are now numerous compositions for the carnyx, and it features on seven CDs, and on March 15, 2003 he performed solo to an audience of 65,000 in the Stade De France, Paris.
Recording of a reconstruction of the Deskford carnyx.
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See also 
- Dord (musical instrument), another type of Celtic trumpet which has been revived
- Delmarre, Xavier (2003) Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise (2nd ed.) Paris: Editions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-237-6
- Ancient Celtic music in the Citizendium
- Carnyx and co. Carnyx music.
- The Carnyx. Music prehistory.
- The Shamrock Traditional Irish Music Society.
- Tintignac discoveries (in French, with photos)
- Tintignac carnyx (in French, 2nd photo from left at bottom)
- News story about Tintignac
- Carnyx on a gold stater of Caesar and on a silver denarius, both from 48 BC
- The carnyx is featured in several battle scenes of the film, "Druids."
- UPI.com Carnyx identified in Italy
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