Music & Ritual: Bridging Material & Living Cultures

Publications of the ICTM Study Group on Music Archaeology, Vol. 1

The Ritual Significance of the Scandinavian Bronze Age Lurs: An Examination Based on Ethnographic Analogies

Gjermund Kolltveit

The horns of the Scandinavian Bronze Age—the so called bronze lurs—were originally deposited in pairs as sacrifices, most of them in wetlands. It is commonly accepted that these instruments were used for ritual and cultic purposes. Based on the archaeological contexts of the finds, iconographical sources, and analogies drawn from different instrument traditions, the article discusses and re-examines the ritual significance of the bronze lurs and their sound. It also analyses the utility value of analogy, and discusses the meaning and usability of the concept of ritual, in connection with religion, performance and music. Other lip-vibrated aerophones from several continents might in various ways provide some parallels to bronze lurs. From archaeological sources the lurs could be compared to the bronze horns of Ireland. Other European ancient trumpets are less relevant analogies, but still important as comparative material. One plausible interpretation of the ritual use of bronze lurs is that they were part of calendar celebrations that worshipped the sun, and thus ensured cyclical renewal, continuity and cosmological order.

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