History of Pandura

Another relief showing the Pandura from ancient Greece

Another relief showing the Pandura from ancient Greece

A relief from Ancient Greece showing the pandura

A relief from Ancient Greece showing the pandura

The Pandura is an ancient Middle-Eastern instrument, similar to a lute, part of a family of instruments that are precursors to modern day banjos and guitars.. While the instrument is most commonly associated with the Ancient Greek civilization, it was in fact introduced to Greece by Persia. Hence, the etymology of the word Pandura stems from the word Pandur[1] a Sumerian word for the long necked lute. The Pandura plays both a part in legend as it does in fact from several cultures’ histories. Therefore it goes by many names: pandura, pandoura, tanbur, tanboura, tambora, mandore, pandore, bandora, ect.

We can say, with a measure of confidence that the pandura was a generic term that referred to a group of very similarly designed long necked lute in the Middle East during the Alexandrian times of the Greek Empire and the early Roman times. The historian Pollux claims that the Egyptians or Assyrians invented the pandura sometime around 1000 B.C. It is said that almost a dozen examples of this type of instrument are attributed with the name of Pandura, and they all originated around the boundaries of the Ancient Greek empire during Alexandrian times.

The pandura used by the Assyrians was somewhat pear shaped and resembled an elongated triangle, and comprised of three individual plucked strings plucked by the fingers. The pandura was very prominent in Ancient Assyrian culture, and is depicted in several reliefs on stone slabs dating back to 800 B.C., indicating the importance of the instrument to their way of life. The Egyptian pandura was more oval shaped and differed in the placement of the frets, indicating a different tuning pattern.

The ancient Greek pandura (or pandoura) had a neck with a small interior chamber that resonates when the strings are plucked. These lutes were the precursors to the Greek Tambouras and Bouzouki’s, but we will touch more on that in the modern influences page.


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