The Gold Lyre of Ur is covered in some 5,000
individual pieces of cut pink local limestone, Lapis Lazuli and Mother-of-pearl
shell. These were fixed onto the body using bitumen from the Hitt region. If the
project was to be successful, then it was necessary to obtain these natural materials
Mary Schmidt, a lady in
Hamburg contacted an Iraqi tailor in Schleswig-Holstein. The tailor persuaded
a friend in Iraq to ask a taxi driver to drive into the northern Iraqi desert
and collect the best "red rock" he could find. The taxi driver found a red rock
and, thanks to this unknown person in Mosul, it was eventually brought to England
from Germany. It was perfect for the job.
tailor said "You must have a proper suit to stand up beside the finished Lyre
of Ur" and donated a fine suit: Such is the goodwill that this project creates.
The lapis lazuli from the only
source, Afghanistan was purchased; mother-of-pearl shells were collected from
the shore of the Persian Gulf by the Hassall family living in Dubai and sent to
Dr Lamia Al Gailani,
conservator at the Baghdad museum, arranged for the collection of a 2 kg lump
of natural bitumen from Hitt. It was driven overland to Mr Ayad Abbas in Abu Dhabi,
then wrapped in 17 layers of plastic as it smelt so foul, before being sent to
us in the UK. It was absolutely ideal for the job and the perfect levelling medium
for cut stone and shell.
too, a donation of natural cow gut strings came from the only remaining maker
in the UK "Bowbrand Strings" of King's Lynn Norfolk.
David Poston, an ex-tutor from Loughborough University suggested contacting a
South African Gold producing company about the gold that was needed. The company
was contacted and the project explained. They replied: "We would like to support
this humanitarian idea" and then offered to supply all the gold needed. It was
a major moment for the project. They subsequently sent 24 ct gold which was passed
on to Tonny Beentjes at, the West Dean College of Art in England who had offered
to make the gold Bull's Head. The carving of the Bull's head, by Roger Rose, and
the goldwork, carried out by Daniel Huff and other students, took nine months.
The gold sheet is 0.5 mm thick and it is nailed in place! The gold bands, to create
the gold-covered arms were laid on by Mr Alun Evans, a member of the staff of
Simon Benney, Gold and Silversmiths, Royal Goldsmiths to HRH Prince Charles.
reconstruction followed the reference work in the book by Maude de Schauensee
of Pennsylvania in order to recreate the lyre. The curatorial work done by Pennsylvania
Museum for the Lyre on show there is well documented and this was used as a guide.
The front of the Lyre has four
mythical scenes showing fables with animals, made of cut shell set in bitumen
and placed on the front. These mythical pictures showing demi-gods and cows and
leopards are fascinating. They nevertheless reinforce the huge lack of background
knowledge about these early times of Mesopotamia.
Pond of Loughborough University Jewellery Department, working with Liverpool University,
offered to create them using laser technology. Italian cameo makers, La Compagnia
del Cammeo s.r.l (Cameo Jewellery Company Ltd) in Naples, who still do similar
work today, offered to make a set of hand-cut cameo images. These cameos were
made by Mr Alfredo De Paolo.
two sets of cameos were donated to the project, each set in the correct bitumen
The decoration on the
body of the Lyre has over 5,000 pieces of stone, shell and limestone on it, requiring
around 30,000 individual cuts of a diamond disc. It took over seven months to
do this work. 6 diamond discs were worn out, each donated by a kind supporter.
How the Sumerians achieved this result with just sand, copper and, later, carborundum
is beyond comprehension today. Each piece is set in a bitumen mixture.
was discovered that pure bitumen itself is too rubbery. After some research it
was found that an extra ingredient, bees wax, would need to be added to make it
perfect to stick down the bits of stone (tesserae). This mixture was found to
harden over time as the bitumen sets.
was decided not try to achieve "perfection" but to replicate, as far as possible,
the standard of work of the original. Perfection may be a modern concept. The
original Lyre is not regular in workmanship and detail.
research highlighted the work of musicologists who had spent their lives deciphering
early cuneiform texts from the region. The argument is long and complex about
the way in which tuning and music could be conveyed by such tablets, and what
can be deduced from them. Dr Anne Kilmer, amongst others, has created music from
such cuneiform texts. Her research indicates that a modal system was probably
used based on a conventional "diatonic" system. This is complex, academic topic
that engenders much discussion.
day in 2004 a phone call came from London. The caller, Mr Ayub Ogada, said "I
play your lyre. It is a ceremonial lyre. We call it an "Entiti lyre". We came
from that area long ago my people say. And for a time, we think, we lived in what
is modern day Iraq."
ancient instrument might somehow have a contemporary legacy today was something
that had not been considered. A visit in London to see Ayub, was arranged the
very next day. He showed a similar lyre and said, …"Look this has the same colours,
the same levers, same shape but your bridge is wrong".
comes from the Luo people of West Kenya and he believes that the spread of the
Lyre came along the Nile from Egypt and, before that, from Sumeria. Can folk memory
be true? Lyres are still played in Sudan, Somalia, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya
and Uganda. Cretan lyres are also documented in Greek times and might well be
associated with Sumerian contact. Perhaps there exists a history of Lyres in the
northern countries adjacent to Sumeria; perhaps Turkey, Iran or even in the Russian
In July 2005, as a result
of Ayub Ogada`s involvement in modern World Music, an invitation to take part
in Live8 Africa Calling was received.
BBC Radio programmes that told the story have been recorded. Part of one was an
impromptu recording of Iraqi and African harp/lyre players working together.
ancients instruments had names.
A list of Lyre names, that figure highly in cuneiform texts, have been provided
Lady truly looked upon
The Red Eyed Lord.
"The Lyre/ Harp….
for the day of the disappearance of the moon" (The Lyre harp of the goddess Ninibgal
of the City state of Largash and of Umma. This sacred instrument was used in ritual
processions around the city)
a result of having created a fine work of art, and also a point of contact across
the world, the objective to play together with other musicians of the world can
now be fulfilled. Invitations have already been received to perform or give presentations
to some 20 venues and contact is welcomed from any interested establishments or
parties who would like to issue invitations or to contribute to the aims.
has the project been financed?
project has been totally self-financed with contributions from many individuals
and grateful thanks are given to all who have made donations from the start, and
also to those who have worked for nothing with no request for recognition or return.
is a growing list of the types of presentations that can be made. Some are unashamedly
`popularist', however, if the Lyre is only played absolutely correctly, as it
was 4,550 years ago, but no one wants to listen for more than five minutes, then
the effectiveness and impact is totally lost.
is impossible to hear with the same ears as people of 5,000 years ago who had
a different mentality; so absolute authenticity is impossible.
FILE to be added
For the Lyre
Project, authenticity and perfection were important but not the only objectives.
Equally important are the "playing"
and the "bringing to life of a story" of the time of Stonehenge and the first
Pyramids, a time before all present world difficulties.
efforts have been taken to create something authentic and true to the evidence.