With the bronze head of the boar, a wobbling wooden tongue and standing at four metres high when played, the carnyx is not your typical instrument. The carnyx is a Celtic war horn, which was played across Europe from 300BC to 200 AD. Although the carnyx is depicted on a number of metal1 John Kenny and Carnyx and stone objects, a complete carnyx has not yet been discovered. In around 1816, fragments of a remarkable carnyx were unearthed on the shores on the Moray Firth in Scotland. This artefact, and the later reconstructed piece, were among 300 spectacular treasures on display in the National Museum of Scotland’s major exhibition, Celts which ran at the National Museum of Scotland until Sunday 25 September 2016. The discovered fragments are the only surviving carnyx (though not fully complete) in Britain and one of only a handful throughout Europe.

The reconstructed carnyx was created in 1993 by renowned metalsmith, John Creed, using ancient techniques and materials that ensured the reconstructed instrument was as close to the original as possible. John has contributed to many high profile collections, including silverware for the Millennium Collection for Bute House and Silver of the Stars, and he is the creator of numerous beautifully designed sculptures, gates and signs across the UK, but the carnyx is surely one of his most unusual creations. John also contributed to 2016’s Silverscape at Elements, which showcased pieces from some of the UK’s most talented silversmiths.

On the 12th September 2016, the National Museum of Scotland hosted a special event offering the unique opportunity to hear this fascinating instrument. John Kenny, the internationally acclaimed solo trombonist, be played the carnyx for the Glenmorangie Annual Lecture: Mouthpiece of the Gods. He was joined by John Creed who gave insights into making the first carnyx for almost two thousand years and by Dr Fraser Hunter, co-curator of the Celts exhibition and expert in the archaeology of the carnyx. The Glenmorangie Annual Lecture series, supported by a partnership between National Museums Scotland and the whisky company, explores links between contemporary arts and archaeology. Mouthpiece of the Gods is an event that is part recital, part lecture and part detective story.

For tickets please visit http://www.nms.ac.uk/national-museum-of-scotland/whats-on/glenmorangie-annual-lecture/

8 Making of reconstruction

Image: Reconstructing a carnyx © National Museums Scotland

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