Fossils & Artifacts for Sale | Paleo Enterprises

First Contact Jew’s Harp


First Contact Jew’s Harp from White Springs Site, Geneva, New York. This is item 9 in a set of 7 harps, certified as an authentic ancient artifact (ref Encoded Certificate Number: 10D5AE93); length 1-3/8″, width 3/4″


The Jew’s harp, also known as jaw harp, juice harp, or mouth harp, is a lamellophone instrument, consisting of a flexible metal or bamboo tongue or reed attached to a frame. Despite the colloquial name, the Jew’s harp most likely originated in Siberia, specifically in or around the Altai Mountains, and is of Turkic origin and has no relation to the Jewish people.

Jew’s harps may be categorized as idioglot or heteroglot (whether or not the frame and the tine are one piece); by the shape of the frame (rod or plaque); by the number of tines, and whether the tines are plucked, joint-tapped, or string-pulled.

The earliest depiction of somebody playing what seems to be a Jew’s harp is a Chinese drawing from the 3rd century BCE, and curved bones discovered in the Shimao fortifications in Shaanxi, China are believed to be the earliest evidence of its existence, dating back to before 1800 BCE.  Archaeological finds of surviving examples in Europe have been claimed to be almost as old, but those dates have been challenged both on the grounds of excavation techniques, and the lack of contemporary writing or pictures mentioning the instrument


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