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Bull Lyre

Bull Lyre invented by Ancient Sumarians of Iraq


The Ancient Sumarians of Iraq invented the Bull Lyre around 3200 BCE. Its design was developed from the harp by replacing the single bow shape with two upright arms joined by a crossbar, and the strings, instead of joining the sound box directly, were made to run over a bridge attached to the box.

The bull lyre is one of three excavated from the royal cemetery of Ur. Each lyre had a different animal head protruding from the front of the sound box to denote its pitch: the bull lyre was bass, the heifer lyre was tenor and the stag lyre was alto, with all three being made of wood. The bull lyre stood roughly 1.2 meters high. The sound box was defined by a broad border of mosaic in shell, lapis lazuli and red paste, and this border continued onto the rectangular upright arms. The strings were tied to the crossbar and strung down over the bridge to connect at the base of the sound box. Researchers believe the notes constituted the same scale as Queen Shub-Ad’s harp and were achieved by the tension of the strings rather than the length.

The Sumerians were also believed to have invented their own system of writing, as well as the wheel. However, it can be difficult to give distinct credit because other civilizations have also “invented” the wheel and systems of writing, without prior contact to the Sumerians. As such, it can be assumed that they were invented independently of one another.

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 Posted on : May 15, 2009 - Last updated on Nov 15, 2013

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