Biblical Archaeology Review 43:4, July/August 2017

Strata: Do You Remember What This Is?

A. Chew bone

B. Musical instrument

C. Board game piece

D. Measuring tool

E. Staff

Answer: (B) Musical instrument

This flute, carved from a cow’s foreleg, first appeared in BAR in 1979.a Dating to the Second Temple period (c. 515 B.C.E.–70 C.E.), it was excavated at the southern tip of the City of David, Biblical Jerusalem, from the rubble of a wall that collapsed during the Roman destruction of the city in 70 C.E. The flute apparently has all its six finger holes intact: four front holes and two back holes for the two thumbs.

From many references to music and flutes in the Hebrew Bible, it is apparent that flutes played a role in religious ceremonies as well as in secular festivities. For example, 1 Kings 1:40 says, “And all the people went up following [Solomon], playing on flutes and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth quaked at their noise.” Additionally, flutes most likely accompanied the singing of psalms. Other archaeological examples of bone flutes from ancient Israel come from Megiddo, Jericho, Tell Beit Mirsim, Gezer and Tell Dothan, among other sites.

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