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. The form of the eyes can be found on massive bracelets, worn as symbols of power in the first centuries AD. The almond eye settings were perhaps originally filled with enamel.

The carnyx is incomplete. Originally it had a wooden tongue which could move as the trumpet was played and carried, the section between the muzzle and back of the head, the trumpet tube, mouthpiece, and perhaps a boar's crest.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-001-141-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. 
  • MacGregor, Morna. Early Celtic art in North Britain. Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1976, vol. 1, pp 87-9, 104, 109; vol. 2, no. 188. 
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