Global Bowed String Instrument Archaeological Finds Catalogue

Archaeology plays a significant part in our understanding of instrument history. Until now these finds have been the subject of individual articles or have been mentioned individually in disparate places. This catalogue intends to bring together the known archaeological finds of bowed instruments, bows, accessories, parts or fragments thereof up to c.1600 CE. All items that are possible bowed instruments or related objects have been included. Some finds are ambiguous, and generate much debate about whether or not they are related to bowed instruments. Listing here does not assert that the find is, or belongs to a bowed instrument, but should be taken as an indication of potential relevance to bowed string instrument history. Iconographic archaeological finds are listed in the BSIP Iconography database. This catalogue should always be considered to be incomplete, as it lists only those items which we are aware of. If you are aware of any additional items, further details, or corrections please contact us!

MORE TO COME! This is a work in progress. In stage 2 the catalogue below will be expanded to provide detailed information and images for each of the finds.

19 objects

By DATE

c.0900-1099 Hedeby instrument
c.1025-1074 Ostrów Lednicki inst. frag.
23rd horizon Novgorod inst. frag. 2
c.1175-1199 Novgorod soundboard
c.1225-1249 Gamlebyen bridge
c.1250-1274 Wollin soundboard
c.1255-1274 Gdańsk instrument
c.1300 Bristol bridge
c.1350-1399 Novgorod inst. frag. 1
c.1350-1449 Elblag instrument
c.1386 Novgorod instrument 3
c.1400-1499 Paris bridge
c.1500 Glimmingehus bridge
c.1500-1599 Płock instrument
c.1545 Mary Rose instrument 1
c.1545 Mary Rose instrument 2
c.1545 Mary Rose bow 1
c.1545 Mary Rose bow 2
c.1545 Mary Rose case 1

By LOCATION

  • Denmark
    • Hedeby
      instrument c.900-1099
  • England
    • Bristol 
      bridge c.1300
    • Mary Rose, Portsmouth
      instrument 1  c.1545
      instrument 2  c.1545
      bow 1  c.1545
      bow 2  c.1545
      case 1  c.1545
  • France
    • Paris
      bridge c.1400-1499
  • Poland
    • Elblag
      instrument c.1350-1449
    • Gdańsk
      instrument c.1255-1274
    • Ostrów Lednicki
      instrument frag. c.1025-1074
    • Płock
      instrument c.1500-1599
    • Wollin
      soundboard c.1250-1274
  • Russia
    • Novgorod 
      inst. frag. 2 23rd horizon
      soundboard c.1175-1199
      inst. frag. 1 c.1350-1399
      instrument c.1386
  • Sweden
    • Gamlebyen
      bridge c.1225-1249
    • Glimmingehus, Skåne
      bridge c.1500

By TYPE

  • Instrument
    • c.900-1099 Hedeby
    • c.1025-1074 Ostrów Lednicki
    • 23rd Horizon Novgorod frag. 2
    • c.1255-1274 Gdańsk
    • c.1350-1399 Novogorod frag 1
    • c.1350-1449 Elblag
    • c.1386 Novgorod 3
    • c.1500-1599 Płock
    • c.1545 Mary Rose 1
    • c.1545 Mary Rose 2
  • Soundboard
    • c.1175-1199 Novgorod 4
    • c.1250-1274 Wollin
  • Bridge
    • c.1225-1249 Gamlebyen
    • c.1300 Bristol
    • c.1400-1499 Paris
    • c.1500 Glimmingehus
  • Bow
    • c.1545 Mary Rose 1
    • c.1545 Mary Rose 2
  • Case
    • c.1545 Mary Rose 1

Ongoing Investigations

  • Lake Paladru, Isère, France :  two bridges
  • Novgorod, Russia :  1 further instrument fragment, 2 pegs and 5 bridges and possibly a bow

Some problems with identification are caused by modern expectations that flat bridges are not used on bowed instruments.

Extant Instruments

Unlike iconography and archaeology, extant instruments tend to be more accessible and well catalogued. The only pre-1500 extant instrument and bow we know about are:

  • c.1462, Violeta of S. Caterina de' Vigri, Monastero del Corpus Domini, Bologna, Italy (instrument & bow)

For other extant instruments the MIMO (Musical Instrument Museums Online) database is an excellent resource and starting point.


Last modified 10.Nov.2021