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

by Keith Wagstaff /

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

Bronze Age Horn
Billy O Foghlu with a curved horn.Stuart Hay / ANU

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.

"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."

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