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date: 19 February 2020

Archaeology of instrumentslocked

  • Robert Anderson,
  • Arturo Chamorro,
  • Ellen Hickmann,
  • Anne Kilmer,
  • Gerhard Kubik,
  • Thomas Turino,
  • Vincent Megaw
  •  and Alan R. Thrasher


The application of archaeological methods to the study of musical instruments, broadly defined. Through analysis of material remains from earlier times, investigators seek to reconstruct, however tentatively, sound-producing artefacts and their functions, and relate these to instruments and practices that still survive. Complicating the picture is the problem that some cultures, including presumably early human, have had no concept of music as a distinct activity, yet virtually all have made use of sound-producing implements; even if not ‘musical’, these are all subjects for investigation, although undoubtedly, many such implements have gone unrecognized for what they are.

The late 20th century and early 21st have seen significant archaeological finds throughout the world, notably in China; many discoveries await thorough analysis, and earlier ones are being reinterpreted. This article outlines some salient aspects of the field; for further discussion and bibliography, see entries on specific regions and peoples (e.g. Latin America, Mexico, Aztec music, etc.) in ...

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