Monday, August 8, 2011

Play that funky music...

Fresh from the soil!
Photo credit Cathrine Davis.
As one of the oldest instruments in the world the mouth harp is certainly an interesting find, and we are lucky enough to have found several at Fort St. Joseph over the years including one just this past week! Theresa and Bryan saw this fantastic artifact while troweling, and it really is in excellent condition.

Looks pretty tough!
Mouth harps likely originated in Asia but before long they had spread around the world. They are often found on archaeological sites in North America but because of the different type of metal used for the center reed that part of the instrument usually does not preserve. In order to play the instrument this center reed rests against the musician's tongue and is plucked with a finger to produce a note (see image to the right). The note and volume can be altered by changing the shape of one's mouth and throat, as well as one's breathing.

Other names for this instrument are the jaw harp and ozark harp. People still play this instrument today, and back during the Fur Trade a mouth harp plus a bottle of wine was probably all you needed to get a party started!


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