Archaeological Context

The Kelsey Museum's collection of musical instruments from Roman Egypt is unique in part because the instruments come from a controlled excavation and thus have a known archaeological context. An artifact with known archaeological context can provide unique information about the relationships between the artifact and the environment in which it was produced and used. The musical instruments from Karanis in this exhibition were found in a variety of domestic contexts, in conjunction with a number of typical objects of daily life--pottery, glass, coins, and papyri-that can tell much about the date of the instruments and the ways in which they were used. A large number of the castanets in the collection were found in the same house, for example, and some instruments were found in conjunction with papyri.