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Lyre bridge and tuning peg

  • Lyre from the ship-burial at Sutton Hoo (reconstruction)

    Lyre from the ship-burial at Sutton Hoo (reconstruction)

 

Length: 3.400 cm (bridge)
Height: 2.600 cm
Length: 3.400 cm (bridge)

M&ME 1982,6-1,1-2

    Lyre bridge and tuning peg

    Anglo-Saxon, 7th century AD
    From Scole, Norfolk, England

    From a 6-stringed musical instrument

    Music was very much part of Anglo-Saxon life, although finds of musical instruments are rare. High status graves occasionally contain metal fittings and fragments of wood from lyre-like stringed instruments. The remains of two Anglo-Saxon musical instruments have been found - one in the ship burial at Sutton Hoo (see Other Views), the other in the princely grave at Taplow. Both were made of maple and are straight-sided with a long sounding box.

    These two copper-alloy finds from Scole are a tuning key and a bridge. The tuning key was used to turn the pegs on which the strings of the instrument were wound. It was designed with a flattened oval head for ease of handling. It has a longish shank with a hollow end. Interestingly, unlike modern instruments, this is round, suggesting that the pegs too must have been round, perhaps tapering for good grip.

    The bridge lifted the strings away from the sounding board so that they resonated to produce a clear sound. It is a remarkable casting of two animals, possibly stallions, standing tail to tail, with their stylized heads turned elegantly backwards so that their extended muzzles touch. Placed on their rumps, linking their bodies, is a straight bar with grooves for six strings.

    R.L.S. Bruce-Mitford, The Sutton Hoo ship burial-1, vol. 3 (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)

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