British Museum

This ivory pyxis or round box, decorated with figures of musicians, was found at Nimrud in Assyria. This eighth century B.C. pyxis supplements our information on the musical culture of the Syro-Phoenician area. It is assumed to be a Phoenician export or booty captured by the Assyrians from the Phoenicians. The first and second figures from the right play well-known instruments: a double pipe and a frame-drum. The instruments played by the third and fourth figures are still a mystery. If they are of the zither type (having no neck and strings stretched over a box), the strings should run parallel with the long flank of the box and not across its width. It is possible that they are actually square frame drums—such instruments are also known. But, in that case, the engraved striations would not represent strings but, rather, lines painted on the instrument; such a decoration is not known elsewhere.