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Lur

The lur is a name given to two distinct types of wind musical instrument. These two types can be divided according to whether they are made of wood or bronze.

The wooden lur

The earliest references to an instrument called the lur come from Icelandic sagas, where they are described as war instruments, used to marshall troops and frighten the enemy. These lurs, several examples of which have been discovered in longboats[?], are straight, end-blown wooden tubes, around one metre long. They do not have fingerholes, and are played much like a modern brass instrument.

A kind of lur very similar to these war instruments has been played by farmers and milk maids in Nordic countries since at least the Middle Ages. These instruments were used for calling cattle and signalling. They are similar in construction and playing technique to the war instrument, but are covered in birch, while the war instruments are covered in willow.

The bronze lur

The bronze instrument now known as the lur is very probably unrelated to the wooden lur, only having the name because 19th century archaeologists had nothing better to call it.

Bronze lurs date back to the bronze age. They are roughly S-shaped conical tubes, without fingerholes. They are end blown, like brass instruments, and they sound rather like a trombone. The opposite end to the blown one is slightly flared, like the bell on a modern brass instrument but not to the same degree. A typical bronze lur is around two metres long.

Several bronze lurs have been unearthed in northern Europe. They are frequently found in pairs, with the direction of the "S" of each instrument going in opposite directions, so that one is a mirror image of the other. There are no known written references to the instrument, but carvings of them do exist. It is thought they were used for ceremonial purposes.



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