Researcher Billy Ó Foghlú is pictured with a Kompu, a modern Indian horn that resembles those used by Iron Age Celts. Photo by Stuart Hay/ANU
ACTON, Australia, May 13 (UPI) -- The musical traditions of iron-age Ireland live on in southern India.
An archeologist studying ancient Celtic horns found evidence of an ancient musical tradition -- one he thought was long extinct -- being practiced among horn players in the Indian state of Kerala. Modern horns in southern India, such as the Kompu, resemble artifacts found among Iron Age settlements in Ireland.
"Archaeology is usually silent," Billy Ó Foghlú, a PhD student at the Australian National University, said in a news release. "I was astonished to find what I thought to be dead soundscapes alive and living in Kerala today."
The cultural link between musicians from Ireland and India dates back 2,000 years. A stone carving in Sanchi -- a village in central India rich with ancient Buddhist artifacts -- depicts a group of Indian musicians playing a pair of European carnyces, a horn-like wind instrument used by Iron Age Celts.
Carnyces are characterized by the sculpted animal heads, serpents and boards, that were incorporated into the instrument's design.
Artifacts unearthed in Ireland may offer evidence of the roots of Indian horn traditions. Instruments in India were often recycled, lending a sparse archaeological record.
The new research -- detailed in the Journal of Indian Ocean Archaeology -- also brings the study of ancient Irish music to life, and shows the soundscapes of prehistoric Europe were much different that those attributed to modern Western music.
"Some almost identical instruments have been unearthed together, but they are slightly out of tune with each other to western ears," Ó Foghlú said. "This was previously assumed to be evidence of shoddy workmanship. But in Indian music this kind of dissonance is deliberate and beautiful."
"Horns are used more as a rhythm instrument, not for melody or harmony in a western sense," Ó Foghlú added.