Guestblog: The Lyre of Trossingen – pt. 1

Luit van der Tuuk is a Dutch author and independent researcher, specialized in the early middle ages. He is also the curator of Museum Dorestad in Wijk bij Duurstede.

In 2001 en 2002 twelve graves were discovered in an early medieval grave field in the South-German town of Trossingen. In the largest and also richest grave a burial chamber was found, with a bed, covered by a richly decorated lid. Beside the bed were pieces of furniture and other artifacts. The grave goods were unmistakable of an important man, buried in 580 with valuable clothes and armor. In his left arm was a plucked six-string instrument, a lyre.


The original lyre in the Archäologischen Landesmuseum Baden-Württemberg in Konstanz.

This lyre is subject of a project I’ve started together with luthier (maker of stringed instruments) Jan van Cappelle. We’re working on this project from different angles. A faithful replica of the instrument will be made, to be tried out by a couple of lyre players. Their experiences, together with the results of acoustic measurements, will be published in the book. This book will not only deal about the history, construction, practice and other musical aspects of the lyre, but also about the social and cultural context.

The lyre was the most important instrument of the Germanic aristocracy in the early middle ages. It was used to accompany the verses recited during gatherings of warlords and their following in the mead hall. The lyre was in the focal point of the heroic world that characterizes the period of great migrations. This makes the instrument one of the best symbols of its time, and makes it clear why it was chosen for this project.

Remains and parts of early medieval lyres were excavated over the whole Germanic area. We have chosen for the find of Trossingen, because at present day this instrument is the best preserved lyre they discovered. The instrument is almost complete, and moreover discovered rather recently, where they used the last and most innovative technology archaeologists have at their disposal. On top of that the lyre of Trossingen is covered in engraved decorations, as a cherry on the pie. The most important of them depicts twelve armed fighters, seemingly taking an oath on a banner. This fits seamlessly into the martial society that brought forth this lyre.

Preparations for the book and construction of the instrument are in full force. That’s why I will give periodical updates on multiple aspects of this project. So keep following my blogs…

A Dutch version of this blog was posted at on April 29, 2018. English translation by JAVACA – © Luit van der Tuuk – 2018

This entry was posted in Articles, History, lyre, Research, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Guestblog: The Lyre of Trossingen – pt. 1

  1. Berniesr says:

    Reblogged this on A Galah's View of the World and commented:
    Love theses insights into the days of old. Actually finding am intact wooden instrument dating back to 520 A.D. is amazing


  2. Berniesr says:

    Its amazing that a wooden instrument has survived intact since 520 A.D. and gives remarkable insight into that period in history.


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