Archaeologists believe they have uncovered the remains of the earliest stringed instrument to be found so far in western Europe.
The small burnt and broken piece of carved piece of wood was found during an excavation in a cave on Skye.
Archaeologists said it was likely to be part of the bridge of a lyre dating to more than 2,300 years ago.
Music archaeologist Dr Graeme Lawson said the discovery marked a “step change” in music history.
The Cambridge-based expert said: “It pushes the history of complex music back more than a thousand years, into our darkest pre-history.
"And not only the history of music but more specifically of song and poetry, because that’s what such instruments were very often used for.
"The earliest known lyres date from about 5,000 years ago, in what is now Iraq, and these were already complicated and finely-made structures. Read more.
The remains of what could be the oldest stringed instrument to be found in Europe have been discovered in a remote cave on Skye.
The burnt fragment was dug up last year during an archaeological project. It is believed to be at least 1,500 years old and pre-dates any similar item previously found on the continent.
The artefact, which resembles a bridge of an early stringed instrument, was unearthed in Skye’s High Pasture Cave – a focus of Bronze Age and Iron Age research since 1972 – and is currently being examined by experts at Historic Scotland.
Rod McCullagh, a Historic Scotland Archaeologist, said: “The cave has provided many fascinating discoveries, including a burnt fragment of a small wooden object that we have asked experts to study as it appears to be the bridge of a stringed instrument.”
Until now the oldest stringed instruments found in Europe have been lyre harps dated around 600AD, which were played by Vikings throughout Scandinavia. Read more.
Aerial surveys are being carried out over Skye to help archaeologists investigate a 12th Century Viking shipbuilding site.
Boat timbers, a stone-built quay and a canal have already been uncovered at Loch na h-Airde on Skye’s Rubh an Dunain peninsula.
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) has launched the air surveys.
Staff hope to pinpoint new sites for investigation.
Working with marine archaeologists, RCAHMS also hope to find potential dive sites for searches for the remains of ships and other artifacts. Read more.