Tutankhamun’s trumpet was one of the rare artefacts stolen from the Cairo Museum during the recent uprising, adding poignancy to a story from the early days of BBC Radio and an attempt to recreate its original sound.
Among the “wonderful things” Howard Carter described as he peered by candlelight into the newly discovered tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922 were two trumpets, one silver and one bronze.
For more than 3,000 years they had lain, muted, in the Valley of the Kings, close to the mummy of the boy king. Found in different parts of Tutankhamun’s tomb, both were decorated with depictions of Egyptian gods identified with military campaigns.
Egyptologists were already reeling from the loss of many of the country’s antiquities, and many found the theft of one of the oldest surviving musical instruments in the world particularly poignant.
Many such objects would have been looted and melted down in ancient times, says Oxford Egyptologist Margaret Maitland. “There was a real lack of precious metal so there was systemic retrieval,” said Ms Maitland.
The trumpet was recently found – reportedly with other Tutankhamun artefacts in a bag on the Cairo Metro.
I studied archaeology in college, briefly, intending to double-major with journalism, my head full of films I’d seen in high school about the discovery of early hominids. Fortunately for the scientific community, a nasty case of mono coupled with a rigorous bone analysis class convinced me I wasn’t a scientist, and I dropped all professional plans of spending my life staring at bone fragments. Still, the idea of literally hearing the music of the past has an irresistible romance.