University Museum, University of Pennsylvania

A royal lyre from the king’s grave at Ur (2685 B.C.). The gold overlay, the inlaid posts, the bull’s head with its lapis lazuli beard, and the four-scene pictorial inlay on the sound box are original. Only the strings and wood have been restored. This lyre is one of eleven stringed instruments discovered by Woolley in 1927. It is a typical Sumerian “Bull-lyre” common to the third millennium in Mesopotamia. By the second millennium, it had been replaced by the smaller asymmetrical lyre like the Megiddo lyre of about 1400 B.C., or those depicted in first millennium Assyrian reliefs. Lyres were tuned by loosening and tightening the tuning pegs. The numbers of strings varied, though between 8 and 13 strings were common.