Old Trumpets

The finding of Pharaoh Tut-Ankh-Amun’s tomb completely intact by Howard Carter in 1922 was probably one of the great archeological findings of all time. Among the “wonderful things” were two trumpets,  the only two surviving trumpets from Ancient Egytpt and probably the world’s two oldest intact musical instruments, silent for nearly 3000 years.

The first trumpet is made of bronze and gold with a centre piece of ebony and it is 49,4 cm long. On the bell Pharaoh Tut-Ankh-Amun is depicted in front of the mummified god Ptah in his chapel. He is receiving the ankh of life from the god Amun-Ra in the presence of the falcon god Ra-Horakhty. With the trumpet is a wooden stopper (decorated to resemble a lotus flower) to fit the tube and bell, almost certainly either for use with a cloth as a cleaner or to prevent the instrument being damaged and thus losing its shape when not in use.

The Trumpets

The second one is made of sterling silver and gold and it is 58,2 cm long and it has a mouthpiece made of fine gold beaten over the silver. The bell is made of two separate pieces, later soldered with silver. It too was found with a decorated wooden stopper inside, probably to protect the thin metal from distortion.

Silver Trumpet

The bronze trumpet was fond in a long white chest (Carter n.º 50) in the antechamber (2), which also contained, amongs other items, linen garmens, 18 stick and 69 arrows. It may have been taken there by the robbers from the Burial Chamber.

Discovering Tutankhamun in color (4)

The other trumpet, wrapped in a reed cover, was found in the southeast corner of the burial chamber (4) outside the outermost golden shrine (right corner entering from room 2 to room 4).

Tomb of Tuth Ankh Amun

In 1939 BBC recorded the sound of these two trumpets and broadcasted it world-wide on April 16 1939 to an audience of an estimated 150 million listeners. The preparation for this broadcast was quite bumpy: one of the trumpets had previously shattered after the first player tried to fit a modern mouthpiece in(see video at the end of the post)

The instruments were sounded by bandsman James Tappern, of Prince Albert’s Own 11th Royal Hussards regiment, who was stationed in Egypt, following the disaster of the first unknown musician attempt.

He was able to play three notes in each instrument (transcription made from the broadcast) which, after a brief comparison, make an interesting point: he managed to play a fifth and a fourth in the silver  and a third and a fouth in the bronze one.

The silver trumpet


The bronze trumpet


The following video is the original BBC broadcast from Cairo Museum, where the two trumpets were sounded for the first time in over 3000 years:

 The next video is the story behind the 1939 BBC broadcast, told by R. G. H. James:


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Fascinating! To be able to hear what they would have played back then…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! It’s quite amazing!


  2. Michigan Man says:

    Why would they play those… Haha


  3. natalyadrian says:

    Now Luis, if you could play these wonderful instruments, where would you like to play them?


    1. gelsobianco says:

      What a nice question! :-)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. gelsobianco says:

    gb :-)


  5. Well, according to the experts, the use of these trumpets was intended rather as a means of communication than of artistic musical playing. They were probably used during battles as a way to organized the army. Tappern stated that, of the three notes he managed to get of each instrument, only one was played with almost no efford, the other two (we can listen in the video of the broadcast) requiring quite a lot of preparation.


    1. gelsobianco says:

      Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Fascinating. I watched the video-clip and took the liberty of providing a link at my own blog (StroppyGit.com).

    Liked by 1 person

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