Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

According to Daniel 3, three Hebrew youths, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, are condemned to a fiery death for refusing to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue when the qayteros, mashroqi and other instruments are played. Miraculously, they survive unsinged, as depicted on the mural, shown here, from the first-to-third-century A.D. catacomb of St. Priscilla in Rome. The Babylonian king is thereby forced to recognize the power of the Hebrew God.

Punctuating the passage in Daniel like a musical refrain are the names of the instruments played at Nebuchadnezzar’s bidding, commanding all listeners to bow. Scholars have long struggled with identifying these ancient instruments. Many of them have been misled by the poetic, yet inaccurate list found in the King James Version: “the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick.” Now, Terence C. Mitchell, an expert in ancient music, suggests identifications for each one, based on historical, linguistic and artistic evidence (compare with Tomb of the Leopards wall painting).