News Release

Ancient Iraqi harp reproduced by Liverpool engineers

A team of engineers at the University of Liverpool has helped reproduce an ancient Iraqi harp – the Lyre of Ur

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of Liverpool

Engineers from the University's Lairdside Laser Engineering Centre (LLEC) employed revolutionary laser technology to engrave authentic designs onto Gulf Shell (mother of pearl) – the original material used to decorate the body of the harp.

Dr Carmel Curran, who carried out the work at the LLEC, commented: "This is the first time we have laser processed this type of material and the results are remarkable. It is fantastic to be involved in the recreation of such a piece of history."

"The shells we engraved came from the Indian Ocean. The laser techniques we used to engrave the shell are normally applied to materials such as plastics, metals, fabric and wood."

The Lyre was discovered in a mass suicide grave in the ancient city of Ur in Iraq by British archaeologist, Sir Leonard Woolley. Uncovered in 1929, the remains were kept in a museum in Baghdad until they were destroyed during the recent war in Iraq.

The original gold lyre – nearly 5,000 years old - belonged to the Sumerian Royal family and was found with three other musical instruments alongside 74 bodies in the grave of Queen Puabi, who died around 2,600 BC.

On hearing the lyre had been destroyed, a British harp enthusiast decided to replicate it unique golden lyre so it could be played at harp festivals around the world.

Andy Lowings, project co-ordinator and harp enthusiast, said: "The Lyre of Ur is one of the world's most unique instruments – the remains of only two similar originals found by Sir Leonard still exist but are unplayable. It is fantastic that the harp has been reproduced using original materials and can now be played and enjoyed by music lovers, worldwide."

The Lyre has been played by musicians from across the globe at several high profile events including the Live 8 Eden Project concert and the Edinburgh International Harp Festival.

Volunteers from several organisations teamed up to help recreate the Lyre, which consists of a golden bull's head, cedar wood, lapis lazuli and pink limestone.


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