ringEr-Notes April 2012

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Articles By Ringers, For Ringers

Rewriting History

By Frida Denker

My name is Frida Denker, and I’ve been ringing for about 18 years now.

My story isn’t very unusual. I rehearse on Tuesday nights with my friends at Church, and we play most Sunday mornings. We’re pretty good, but we won’t set the world on fire. We’re just doing our part for the ministry, and having a great time.

I think one of the reasons I love bells so much is their rich history.  It’s like connecting with people over the centuries, all ringing bells together across time.   I don’t just play them, I collect books and articles about them.  Recently, I found an incredible bell story, and sent it in to RingEr-Notes.   So, here it is – not really MY story, but a great bell story!

It turns out that handbells might be much older than we thought!  As a bell enthusiast, I’ve done my homework.  I know that the first  tuned handbells were developed by brothers Robert and William Cor in England, sometime between 1696 and 1724, and that Margaret Shurcliff is credited with bringing handbells from England to the US in 1902.  But I was googling around and found this article buried in the Reuters wire service:

Dateline Giza, 29 February 2012 — Archeologists working at the Sahure pyramid complex at Abusir, a few miles north of Saqqara Egypt,  have uncovered a set of 12 bells, graduated in size, which would each produce a different tone.  Along with the bells they found evidence of disintegrated leather loops which may have served as handles.  The tomb has been raided many times over the years, letting in light and moisture which caused the decay of organic portion of the artifacts.

Because of the carefully graduated size, and possible leather handles, it is speculated that these bells were made to strike specific musical notes, and

may have been used to play tunes. Papyrus scrolls found nearby were too damaged to completely decipher, but are thought to contain writings used by the musicians.

This set of bells is only find of this kind in the Valley of the Kings, and likely to be a novelty peculiar to King Sahure (2487-2475 BC, 5th Dynasty) and his court. Most of what we know about Sahure comes from this tomb.  He is known to have built a formidable navy, and traded with the Near East. The reliefs from his monument also contain the earliest known depiction of a Syrian bear.

The bells will likely be on display at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo later this year.

In a possibly related story,  NASA reports that their Mars Rover, “Opportunity”, which landed successfully on Mars in 2004, has returned photos of what appears to be glove shaped imprints in the red dust, with small dots covering the palm and fingers.

Below are pictures of the coverings over the vaults containing the papyrus scrolls which scholars are certain contain music intended to be played on the bell-like instruments. A rough translation key has been produced and it is thought that each vault contains the writings of specific musicians.