Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ma Petit Guimbarde

A modern mouth harp with reed intact
(Photo Credit: Tommy)
         Hey everyone, this is Tommy with a write-up on a quirky little instrument called a mouth harp. Mouth harps, commonly referred to as ‘Jew’s harps’ are small U shaped pieces of brass or iron that have a thin reed, or piece of metal that runs down the length of the instrument. The specimen we recovered from our unit, North 21 West 4, was completely surrounded by rust. Once we had knocked away most of the loose rust we were left with an iron mouth harp measuring 4 cm at its widest and 5 cm at its longest.The mouth harp from our unit is a dead ringer for one of the mouth harps mentioned in Charles Hulse’s thesis. Charles Hulse cataloged the local museum’s collection of artifacts found near the believed site of Fort St Joseph. The mouth harp we found and the one in Hulse’s thesis are both made of iron and measure 4 cm by 5 cm.
The specimen we recovered shortly after
we cleaned it off in lab
(Photo Credit: Tommy)
Our mouth harp next to a 1 to 1 scale
photo of the mouth harp mentioned in
Hulse's Thesis
 (Photo Credit: Tommy)
        Lyle Stone suggests that iron mouth harps were in use at Fort Michilimackinac between 1760 and 1780. Lyle Stone was the first staff archaeologist at Fort Michilimackinac; he wrote his dissertation, Fort Michilimackinac: An Archaeological Perspective on the Revolutionary Frontier, on his findings from the fort. Using this information, we can estimate that the mouth harp recovered from Fort St. Joseph is from a similar time period. An astounding number of mouth harps have been recovered from Fort Michilimackinac when compared to other sites in Michigan. At the time of Hulse’s thesis in 1977, 122 mouth harps had been recovered from Michilimackinac, while only 14 have been found at all other comparative sites in the state. 11 of the 14 mouth harps found at other comparative sites were recovered from Fort St. Joseph. I own a more modern working mouth harp and have included a short video demonstrating what it sounds like. Thanks for reading! 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yay tommy!!