Did it really take more than 2,600 years to invent the bow?

Edited: December 18, 2021, 11:50 AM · https://didoofcarthage.tumblr.com/post/186888460029/ostracon-lute-player

My granddaughter just posted this photo of an ancient Egyotian ostracon of a female lute player on Facebook - so I googled and found this link. The pottery shard bearing it is estimated to have been created ca. 1200 BC. Look at the instrument - could it really have taken more than 2,600 years before someone tried to rub something other than fingers across similar strings?

Replies (17)

Edited: December 18, 2021, 1:08 PM · 2,600 years? Not sure where you're getting that?

The earliest known bowed string instrument is the Arabic rabab, which existed by the 8th century AD and is still used today.

Edited: December 18, 2021, 6:16 PM · The Erhu, a horse-hair bowed Chinese instrument, was invented in the Tang dynasty, about or before 700AD, maybe that was the original source (as was so much from China).
December 18, 2021, 3:41 PM · Interesting question. I’m not sure if musicians in antiquity experimented with using a bow like instrument to draw sound from lutes.
December 18, 2021, 3:49 PM · OK - 8th century! that would be only ~2000 years afer ~1200 BC.
December 18, 2021, 3:57 PM · Morin Khur - Mongolia.
One theory is that it started with nomadic horse people. You need a horse after all!
December 18, 2021, 4:50 PM · This poses the Zen question - What came first? The Fiddle or the Bow? (Deep, eh?)
December 18, 2021, 6:10 PM · I wonder if horse hair was ever used for bows? That is as in hunting bows... I can just see Little John pulling his longbow across a lute....
Edited: December 18, 2021, 11:32 PM · Thanks Christopher - I always treasure days when I learn something new.
I had never heard of a "Morin Khur" or "Morin Khuur" (according to a quick google search). Horsehair strings and horsehair bow possibly 40,000 years ago - WoW!

What a wonderful world!

Edited: December 18, 2021, 10:43 PM · I am not sure of the first use of a hair+rosin bow used to sound another string, but the musical bow, struck with a stick, with or without a gourd resonator, is of great age, found in several indigenous tribes in South America and south-east Africa. One tribal group is reported to use the bow as a music instrument, but not as a weapon (!).
December 19, 2021, 1:07 PM · I think I heard somewhere about rosin (resin) being used to preserve the hunting bow string.
December 19, 2021, 8:00 PM · What's a few millenia here or there?
Edited: December 21, 2021, 7:35 AM · I have just dug out my copy of Werner Bachmann's The Origins of Bowing (OUP 1969). I shall have to report back when I have read it.....

It has 170+ pages of very small print!

Edit: I cheated and jumped to the Conclusions. Basically, we don't know..

December 21, 2021, 7:40 AM · Hmm. A hunting bow, plucked next to an open mouth, then a gourd, becomes a lute. A calloused thumb rubbing the string replaced by our hunter's brother's bow, and Bob's-yer-uncle.....
Edited: December 22, 2021, 8:28 AM · When you can accompany singing with plucking, there's no urgent need for bowing.

"A hunting bow, plucked next to an open mouth, then a gourd, becomes a lute." Sounds more like a jew's harp and a jug to me.

December 22, 2021, 9:53 AM · Eons ago, I heard a radio program on Homeric epics where someone had dug up early 20c recordings of performers from Yugoslavia. You really couldn't call it singing in our sense, but there was a long stream of pitched chanting of a poem over a drone.

I don't know if that drone instrument dated as far back as Homer, but there were lots of variants all over the Balkans that seem to have been around for a while. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/288441551111179931/

December 22, 2021, 10:02 AM · Ugh, oral-formulaism has been a publishing money-spinner for 100 years now. Don't get me started.
Edited: December 22, 2021, 1:51 PM · I would be cautious about the claim of 40,000 years -- that would be most likely just be legend, seeing as that age would put the morin khuur about 30,000 years before the earliest speculated domestication of the horse. (Also, the earliest known cave paintings on Earth are only around 44,000 years old.)

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