Trossinger lyre

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Trossinger lyre
Trossinger lyre, detail
Trossinger lyre at the first public presentation in 2006 in the Archaeological State Museum Baden-Württemberg in Konstanz. A reconstruction in the background
Replicas of the Trossinger lyre

The Trossinger lyre is a six-string lyre from an Alemannic aristocratic grave from the 6th century in the "music city" of Trossingen in the Tuttlingen district . This almost completely preserved lyre is considered the best preserved of the 15 early medieval specimens known to date . It is on display in the permanent exhibition of the Archaeological State Museum in Konstanz . A faithful replica of the lyre can be seen together with replicas of the furniture from the grave equipment in the Auberlehaus Museum .


The sound box of the lyre had - after conservation - a total length of 803 mm, the greatest width at the yoke was 195 mm, at the end of the crossbar 160 mm at the yoke. The sound box of the instrument is only 11 to 20 mm thick. The sound box, yoke arms and cross yoke were made from one piece of maple. The soundboard made of maple, between 6 and 1 mm thick, was glued on and fixed with five small iron nails during a subsequent repair. At the approaches of the yoke arms there are one and 8 sound holes in the middle of the soundboard. This is the first evidence of sound holes on a lyre. Of the 6 pegs for tensioning and tuning the strings, four are made of ash and two of hazel. The string bridge is made of willow wood. Remnants of leather at the lower ends of the yoke arms indicate a kind of retaining strap. Traces of wear and sanded edges on one of the yoke arms show that the instrument has been used for a long time. Remnants of the strings presumably made of gut are not preserved.

Both sides of the lyre are richly carved with ornaments and almost fill the entire area. The front of the resonance cover is also adorned with a pictorial representation of people, which is a rarity for this time. The braided ribbon ornaments are made in the style of animal style II . Soot particles in the incised decorations show that the carvings were colored black.

  • Front: The resonance cover shows two groups of six armed warriors each in a side view, who approach each other. The leading warriors hold an upright lance in their hands, with two diamond-shaped pennants hanging down on ribbons from the spout. The warriors wear shoulder-length hair that is held in place by a headband. The faces adorned with a goatee are individually designed. The men are dressed in ankle-length tunic - like robes, under the hems of which a pair of feet with suggested heels protrude. Each warrior holds a lance pointed to the ground on the side facing away from the viewer and two shields lying one on top of the other on the front side. It is unclear whether this should indicate a doubling or multiplication of the warriors depicted, since each warrior is assigned only one head, one weapon and a few feet. Above the heads of the group there is a flame-like decoration separated by a line. The yoke arms of the lyre are decorated with braided band ornaments in the shape of a snake.
  • Back: The sound box is decorated with a complex braided ornament made up of 44 snakes. The yoke arms show different braided and loop ornaments in three cassettes each.

Find history

The Alemannic burial ground in the urban area of ​​Trossingen has been known for many years, it was repeatedly cut and examined during construction work. When building an underground car park on the former site of the Weiss carpenter's workshop, archaeologists came across soil discoloration in 2001, which indicated a grave. The grave was marked with the serial number 58 and uncovered. Since the burial chamber had ideal conditions for wood and textile preservation, it was recovered in the block . This emergency rescue took place in winter 2001/2002 by employees of the Archaeological Monument Preservation in Freiburg. In the Archaeological Institute of the University of Freiburg, it was exposed and documented under laboratory conditions for several years. When the Merovingian aristocratic grave of the 40-year-old, wealthy man was uncovered, he was 1.78 meters tall and was extremely tall for the time numerous textile and leather fragments. Sword and rider lance suggest a warrior. The lyre lay face down at arm level on the dead man's left side. It is not certain whether the lyre was laid in the grave in this way or whether it later shifted. Some pieces of textile stuck to the wood of the instrument. Whether the lyre was wrapped in it is still the subject of investigation. The man died in the late summer of 580. The dendrochronological examination of the heavy oak planks of the burial chamber allows this to be calculated precisely. In his grave the deceased rested in a turned frame bed that had been turned into a closed coffin by a roof attachment. The dead man's right arm had a sword, and his left arm held the lyre. The man's clothes were of high quality, leather-trimmed gloves, a woolen tunic , linen trousers and a coat. The armament included a rider lance an astonishing 3.60 meters in total length, a round shield made of alder wood as well as a riding crop and the remains of a saddle. Furniture was also added to the grave. Next to the bed, the archaeologists found a candlestick, a representative chair and a three-legged table. There is also a turned canteen in which there were leftovers of beer, a turned root bowl and a carved wash bowl. They are additions like those used at a banquet.

Research results and reconstruction

The lyre was dated by means of dendrochronological examinations of five wood samples from the grave, three oak planks and a beech board from the burial chamber and the candlestick. They resulted in consistent felling dates of the trees around the years 578-580 AD. The lyre therefore dates from the year 580 at the latest, but due to the signs of wear on the instrument, an earlier date of manufacture can be assumed. An appraisal of the instrument by the harp and lyre maker Rainer M. Thurau showed that the lyre was fully playable.

Exact and technically correct replicas of the instrument are in the Auberlehaus Museum in Trossingen not far from the site and in the Archaeological Museum in Konstanz. Further true-to-original replicas are in the possession of the Viennese musician Eberhard Kummer , who uses them as a solo and accompanying instrument (for example to Horace's Oden), as well as in the possession of the internationally known lyre interpreter Benjamin Bagby , who uses the instrument in his "Beowulf" interpretations begins. All lyres are certified replicas by Rainer M. Thurau, Wiesbaden, which were made under the scientific supervision of Theune.

Due to the great interest in music history in the find, there are now several other, but mostly critical, reconstructions of the instrument. Replicas of the Trossinger lyre are used, for example, in the music of the medieval scene. Spielmann Michel alias Michael Völkel plays a 7-string variation of the instrument. The group Duivelspack and Knud Seckel , among others, interpret the Hildebrand's song from the 9th century with such a replica.

The lyre can be plucked with the right hand while the left hand holds the instrument. An alternative is to muffle unwanted notes with the fingers of the left hand, while the right hand strikes all the strings similar to a guitar. A variation on this method is mute and pluck, where the fingers of the left hand that muted the strings are used to pluck additional melody tones. The sonic effect is comparable to hammering on a guitar.

Interpretation of the ornament

Eberhard Kummer suspects that when using the instrument, the snake and braided ornaments on the yoke arms could have served the musician as orientation when playing the melody, as they indicate different scales.

Eberhard Kummer: “About the Trossinger lyre: The incised drawings on the right arm (viewed from above) of the lyre on the front (where the bridge sits) are divided into a tetrachord (from top to bottom) and a hexachord. The tetrachord is chromatic (or quarter tone), the hexachord (starting from the uppermost sound hole, i.e. near the pegs) diatonic in the distances T, T, ST, T, T. The incised drawings in the hexachord can be used when tuning the six strings ( e.g. c to a) render valuable services. The same incised drawings (snakes) are attached to the left arm. The reverse also has incised drawings (divided into two tetrachords and a seventh), which come close to the Indian Sruti, about sufficient to represent the two main Vedic keys. "


  • Jutta Klug stairs: Unique finds and fixtures made of wood in Merovingian graves in Trossingen . In: Schriften der Baar . No. 47 , 2004, ISSN  0340-4765 , p. 73-82 .
  • Barbara Theune-Großkopf: The completely preserved lyre from the 6th century from grave 58 of Trossingen, District Tuttlingen, Baden-Württemberg . In: Germania . No. 84 , 2006, ISSN  0016-8874 , p. 93-142 .
  • Barbara Theune-Großkopf: With lyre and sword. The early medieval "singer's grave" in Trossingen . With contributions by Britt Nowak-Böck, Christina Peek, Manfred Rösch and Joachim Wahl. Edited by the Archaeological State Museum Baden-Württemberg. Likias, Friedberg 2010, ISBN 978-3-9812181-2-1 .
  • Barbara Theune-Großkopf: New in the Archaeological State Museum in Konstanz. The lyre grave of Trossingen. In: Preservation of Monuments in Baden-Württemberg , Volume 40, 2011, Issue 1, pp. 40–44 ( PDF )

Web links

Commons : Trossinger Lyre  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e Florian Weiland: A Last Supper for Eternity . In: Südkurier of November 2, 2010.
  2. ^ Museum Auberlehaus: Alamannen
  3. Barbara Theune-Großkopf: The completely preserved lyre from the 6th century from grave 58 of Trossingen, Ldkr. Tuttlingen, Baden-Württemberg. In: Germania. Volume 84, 2006, pp. 93-142, here p. 100.
  4. Hildebrand's song Knud Seckel. Youtube video
  5. S. Wagner: Comparison, transference and performative discovery: Eberhard Kummer's methodological approaches to the musical (re) awakening of a museum artifact, the so-called 'Trossinger Lyre' . In: Phoibos . No. 2 , 2009, p. 75-92 .