Oak wood and iron shovel/voltaic string instrument
Between 900-1280 AD
Origin unknown (presumed Great Britain)
This piece remains a mystery to modern-day scholars and archaeologists. Although it clearly started its life as a simple garden tool, it was modified by a skilled craftsperson to become something much more. The iron of the shovel head is much denser and tougher than most iron alloys used during this time period; additional components have been welded and/or bolted to it as well. A simple galvanic plate in a flat box on the underside of the shovel provides limited power for musical performances. The sound quality of the instrument is of a high caliber even by today's standards. Some experts have termed the small pivoted extension below the six strings a "whammy bar" (there is great academic controversy on this point). Chemical analysis has shown that the source of the discoloration beneath this "whammy bar" is a dried fluid of some organic origin; this may possibly be bloody evidence of some long-ago battle.
Aside from the damaged etching "Narw..k" on the underside of the shovel's handle, there is little evidence of the item's creator, its owner(s), or its ultimate origin.
This item donated to the British Museum 4 December, 1893 by the famed explorer Sir Phineas Meriwether Hornsby IV, Air-Colonel Third-Class (Ret.) of Her Majesty's Thirty-Eighth Armored Zeppelin Division