Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Olifant Horn of the Chalcolithic?

In the previous post, Andrew linked to a story on an Irish music archaeologist by the name of Billy Ó Foghlú.  Ó Foghlú has proposed some ideas concerning the ancient Iron Age horn, which is a slightly different instrument than what I'll start with...  The article is in Science Daily >  [Link]

This subject got me thinking about the evolution of the modern European horn and what examples could be considered the earliest hunting horn in archaeology.  I was reminded of this early Chalcolithic artifact from Valencia de la Concepcion in a paper by link>Garcia SanJuan et al, 2013.  I'll add some quick thoughts then move on.
How different from a Medieval Olifant?!  Photo: Miguel Ángel Blanco de la Rubia. (possibly 36-37 cm from interior or chord line?) (García Sanjuán et al., 2013)
During Medieval Times, the uber-rich, landed nobility often carried exotic hunting horns made of elephant ivory, commonly called the olifant horn.  The carved elephant horns often feature what might be called 'a man's room', a hunting scene with stags, boars, bears, heraldry, saints, etc. You can see that in the Portuguese example below, along with its boar's head mouthpiece.

Hunting Horn including Portuguese Royal Arms and Cross of Beja c. 1490 (48 cm) (British Museum Af1979,01.3156) FI-000833090
This other example appears to have been reworked with silver (in Italy?) after a century or so.  Many of these were imported in Italy and Portgual, then sold throughout Europe.  Some may have been made in Byzantium or other far away places.

Savernake Horn, England c. 1100s (British Museum 1975,0401.1 )( FI-000833091) (58 cm along chord)
Going back to the artifact from Valencia, it is slightly shorter than the two Medieval hunting horns; of course there is some question as to the length of the Neolithic tusk and how it was measured, whether along the chord line or another way.  Given the circumference of the distal end, it might have been very comparable to the two late examples.

Another interesting aspect raised by Garcia-Sanjuan et al, is that the distal end* (the acorn as they call it) might have been perforated near the tip, but not directly; or it could just be a broken area.  But if it was perforated in this strange way, it might have been, as Juarez Martin suggested concerning a separate artifact, as to mimick the gland end of the main.  (* or proximal end if you considerate a mouthpiece)

Another from La Molina Link>(Juarez Martin, 2010) is noted by the Garcia Sanjuan authors as having a similar protuberance at the distal end.   Juarez Martin believed this to signify a gland, as in the male context, and while he says it is hollow, does not mention if the end has a hole at the tip.  There are plenty of examples of horns without perforations from Scandinavia since these were drinking horns.  Garcia Sanjuan hinted at this possibility, but only suggest a container for liquids.

Either way, it is an odd artifact without a clear purpose and I doubt the proximal end (using their orientation, this is the large end) was enclosed seeing that it would be nearly impossibly to hollow out with any tool known at the time.  Therefore it must be a stylized drinking horn for special occasions or a hunting horn for someone with more money than time.

Elephant Tusk of La Molina Artificial Cave.  Jose Maria Juarez Sanjuan (2010)
If you have a pile of cash sitting on the shelf, you may be interested in a book entitled "Die Mittelalterlichen Olifante" by Avinoam Shalem April 2015 ISBN 9783871572357.  This book discusses the deeper history of magical olifante horns in the Near East and their associations in Europe.
Garcia Sanjuan (2013)
Going back to Billy Ó Foghlú, the modern brass instruments, horns and saxhorns excluding trumpets and trombones, have a history in Iron Age horns that might be called cornos.  The hammer-sheet cornos curl around the horn player which makes them mobile and gives them a semi-comparable octave range as the alpine horn, or alpenhorn.

The corno and similar horns, are probably quite literally curled up alpenhorns, which were at some shadowy time in the past carved from trees.  In any case, I wrote all of this as an excuse to post this...

Cheers, everyone have a beer!


Footnote>  You'll notice at 2:36 Lisa Stoll changes the mouthpiece to change key.  This is my basic point with the Irish horns, if O Foghlu is correct.

1 comment:

  1. "If you have a pile of cash sitting on the shelf, you may be interested in a book entitled "Die Mittelalterlichen Olifante" by Avinoam Shalem April 2015 ISBN 9783871572357. "

    This is literally true more often than I'd like due to laws that have forced the marijuana industry that makes up a lot of my client based out of the formal banking system, but alas, usually those piles of cash are spoken for.