The Music Room
History of the Guitar
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1. The Ancient World

The guitar was made and played long before organs, pianos or violins. Its ancestry stretches far back beyond the musical horizon, and variants of it are found all over the Orient. The Ancient Egyptians played simple stringed instruments, and the Greeks and Romans also made music by plucking strings with their fingers.

Among the artifacts excavated from Babylonia, the most relevant were the clay plaques dated (1900-1800 B.C.). These showed nude figures playing musical instruments, some of which bear a general resemblance to the guitar.
   
Close examination of the instrument on the plaque shows it to have a distinctly differentiated body and neck. Its back is undoubtedly flat and the manner in which it rests against the priest's chest precludes the possibility of its being bowl-shaped. It is clear that the right hand is used to pluck the strings. The number of strings is unfortunately not clear but on another plaque, at least two strings are shown on the instrument.
Evidence of guitar-like instruments has been found in Assyria, Susa (an ancient city north of the Persian Gulf which was the capital of the Persian Empire), and Luristan.

 


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