The Mari-Cha lion - did it once roar?

Sharp, David (2013). The Mari-Cha lion - did it once roar? In: Institute of Acoustics Annual Spring Conference 2013: Acoustics 2013, 13 May 2013, Nottingham, UK.



The Islamic lion of the Mari-Cha Collection is a medieval hollow bronze statue, most likely originating from the Mediterranean region in the early part of the last millennium. The lower sections of its legs are missing and the statue now stands at 73cm in height. There is a large rectangular opening in the belly of the lion and a small circular opening at the mouth. Inside the lion, attached to the rear of the body, is a vase-like vessel which is orientated at a slightly downward angle.

Descriptions in the literature suggest that the lion may have once roared. The ancient Ghumdan palace in Sana’a, Yemen is reported as having a “yellow brass” lion statue on each of its corners and it is stated that the wind would pass through these statues and make the sound of a wild beast roaring. Also, the Byzantine emperor’s throne is described as having lions positioned around it (made either of bronze or gold-covered wood) which gave a “dreadful roar”.

This paper speculates on the mechanisms by which the Mari-Cha lion may once have roared and presents some very basic measurements of the resonant frequencies of the surviving lion structure.

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