KENT-79748E: Jew's harp

Rights Holder: Kent County Council
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Unique ID: KENT-79748E

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Awaiting validation Find awaiting validation

A complete post-Medieval-modern cast copper-alloy and iron Jews/jaws harp, dating to c.1500 - c.1900.

Description: In plan the harp has a circular head and tapering arms both of which are characteristically lozenge-shaped in cross-section tapering to their points. At the apex, on the front face, is a notch or rabbet to accommodate the iron prong which fortuitously remains in situ albeit in a fragile condition. The arms are complete. File marks are visible on the arms. The surface is unpatinated and a dark brown colours save for the prong which is made from cut iron sheet.

Measurements: 53.65mm long, 28.44mm wide (at the head), 5.47mm thick and 12.96g in weight.

Discussion: Jews harps, or trumps have a long history of being folk instruments, with a wide geographical distributions. They are believed to be indigenous to South East Asia, and had been introduced to Europe by the Crusades (11th to 14th Centuries AD). The form of the European Jews harp, is made from metal, commonly iron in modern examples. The tongue forms a separate component hammered into a rabbet in the thickest part of the frame. The other end of the tongue is bent into a prong, however this part of the jews harp rarely survives in archaeological examples. To play the instrument, it is held in one hand, with the frame being lightly supported between the player's teeth. The metal tongue is then plucked by the fingers on the other hand. The mouth cavity acts as a resonator and the pitch can be modified by the position of the lips, tongue and cheeks (Egan, 1998, 284).

Iron examples were recovered from excavations in London's waterfront, and have been dated from c.1270 to c.1400 (Egan, 1998, 284-5). Over 200 examples have been recorded on the PAS database, most of which are of copper-alloy with a circular head as opposed to a flattened or oval head and the majority of them have been attributed to the Post Medieval period. This example is probably Post Medieval in dating (1500 - 1800 AD), with a more circular head.

Find of note status

This has been noted as an interesting find by the recorder.

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: POST MEDIEVAL
Period from: POST MEDIEVAL
Date from: Circa AD 1500
Date to: Circa AD 1800

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 53.65 mm
Width: 28.44 mm
Thickness: 5.47 mm
Weight: 12.96 g

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Mr Jo Ahmet
Identified by: Mr Jo Ahmet

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Secondary material: Iron
Manufacture method: Cast
Completeness: Complete

Spatial metadata

Region: London (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Greater London Authority (Greater London Authority)
District: City and County of the City of London (London Borough)
Parish or ward: Vintry (London Borough Ward)

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: TQ3280
Four figure Latitude: 51.5035277
Four figure longitude: -0.09955492
1:25K map: TQ3280
1:10K map: TQ38SW
Grid reference source: GPS (from the finder)
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 10 metre square.

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: KENT
Created: About one month ago
Updated: About one month ago

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