Category: musical instruments

The Otherworldly Sounds of the Clavioline, From Musical Saw to Wailing Cat

Roman Marble Statuette of A Muse Holding a Kithara, 2nd Century AD

74cm (29.1 in) high

Roman Marble Statuette of A Muse Holding a Kithara, 2nd Century AD

74cm (29.1 in) high

Vintage ukeleles, circa 1920s and ‘30s.

Very Rare Celtic Gold Coin with a Chariot and Carnyx

This ¼ stater was struck by an uncertain tribe in Northwest Gaul during the third to second centuries BC. The obverse is a beardless male with curly hair facing to the right, however, the reverse is what’s special about this coin. It shows a Celticized version of a biga (chariot), a horse standing to the right with a male figure on its back. He is blowing an ancient musical instrument, a carnyx. There is a long-fingered figure below the horse with both hands raised. An arrow is behind the rider and a sickle shaped razor is in front of the horse. This is a very rare coin with a remarkably attractive and curious reverse. The obverse is struck from a worn die, otherwise, the coin is extremely fine.

Known as the ‘Trumpet Type,’ its obverse is clearly an early member of the long series that ended up with the extraordinary heads from the Channel Islands and the coast nearby. However, the reverse is simply astounding with its remarkable horse, and the ‘rider’ blowing his horn. As for the rather orans-like figure with his arms raised in praise or prayer below the horse, there are virtually no parallels.

The carnyx was a bronze wind instrument used by Iron Age Celts to rally troops and strike fear into the heart of their enemies from around 200 BC to 200 AD. It took the form of a very elongated ’S’ shaped tube. The horn’s bell was usually shaped like an animal’s head with its mouth wide open. Seven carnyces were discovered at Tintignac, France; six of them have boar-shaped heads and the seventh takes the shape of a a serpent-like beast.  

You can hear the awesome sounds of a carnyx here in a video of John Kenny playing a modern carnyx reproduction.