Head of a carnyx

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from Deskford, Banffshire

Postcard of Head of a carnyx.
© National Museums Scotland

Head of a carnyx

This brass and bronze head of a carnyx - an Iron Age battle trumpet - was found at Deskford in Banffshire. It is the only surviving carnyx head from Britain. The carnyx was used sometime between 80 and 200 AD, and buried as a sacrifice to the gods.

The head resembles that of a wild boar, a symbol of strength and fearlessness. It originally had a wooden tongue, which could move as the trumpet was played and carried. The rest of the carnyx - a curved bell with a crest and a long tube - was not found.

Carnyxes were used in battle to inspire the warriors, as well as at ceremonial events such as feasts, weddings and funerals. The Romans who faced the carnyx in battle found it so distinctive and strange that they made it an emblem of their opponents.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-049-338-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  Q.L.1947.1
Date: Between 80 and 200 AD
Material: Sheet bronze
What: Carnyx head
Where: Scotland, Banffshire, Deskford
Description: Bronze carnyx head from Deskford
  • Calder, Jenni (ed). The Wealth of a Nation. Edinburgh & Glasgow: NMS & Drew, 1989, p 100. 
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