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Bronze-Age Music Gets Encore Thanks to 3-D Printer

Researchers thought it was an ancient weapon. A student with access to a 3-D printer discovered it had another function: making sweet music.

A doctoral candidate at the Australian National University College of Asia-Pacific, Billy Ó Foghlú was convinced that a bronze artifact discovered in Ireland — known as the Conical Spearbutt of Navan — was actually a mouthpiece for a horn.

Since he couldn't test his theory with the real artifact, he recreated it using a 3-D printer and attached it to a horn.

"Suddenly the instrument came to life," he said in a statement.

Why is this important? There is a dearth of horns found in Ireland from the Bronze and Iron Ages, he said, especially when compared to other European countries.

Ó Foghlú hopes to prove that horn music was more popular in ancient Ireland than previously thought -- and that the lack of horns and mouthpieces could be due to the instruments being broken down and buried with their owners.

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"A number of instruments have been found buried in bogs," he said. "The ritual killing of an instrument and depositing it in a burial site shows the full significance of it in the culture."