Lyres of Ur

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Detail of the "Peace" panel of the Standard of Ur showing lyrist, excavated from the same site as the Lyres of Ur.

The Lyres of Ur or Harps of Ur are considered to be the world's oldest surviving stringed instruments. In 1929, archaeologists discovered pieces of three lyres and one harp in Ur, located in what was Ancient Mesopotamia and is contemporary Iraq.[1][2] They are over 4,500 years old.[3]

Leonard Woolley led the team that discovered the instruments as part of his excavation of the Royal Cemetery of Ur from 1922 and 1934. The instrument remains were restored and distributed between the museums that took part in the digs.

Four lyres[edit]

The "Golden Lyre of Ur" or "Bull's Lyre" is the finest lyre, and was given to the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad.[4] Its reconstructed wooden body was damaged due to flooding during the second Iraqi War;[5][6] a replica of it is being played as part of a touring orchestra.[1]

The "Queen's Lyre" is one of two that Woolley found in the grave of Queen Pu-abi.[3] It is held in the British Museum.[3]

A silver Boat-shaped Lyre and a lyre with the head of a bull made of gold sheet and a lapis lazuli beard are held by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Ancient Iraqi harp reproduced by Liverpool engineers". University of Liverpool. 28 July 2005. Retrieved 2009-11-23. A team of engineers at the University of Liverpool has helped reproduce an ancient Iraqi harp - the Lyre of Ur. 
  2. ^ Golden Lyre of Ur, Bill Taylor
  3. ^ a b c Queen's Lyre - From Ur, southern Iraq, about 2600-2400 BC, British Museum
  4. ^ "". Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  5. ^ Matthew Bogdanos. "The Casualties of War: The Truth about the Iraq Museum | American Journal of Archaeology". Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  6. ^ Carl McTague. "The Lyre of Ur, Carl McTague". Retrieved 2014-03-17. 
  7. ^ "Two Lyres from Ur, Maude de Schauensee". Retrieved 2014-03-17. 

See also[edit]