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Lur is a name given to two distinct types of wind musical instrument. The more recent type is made of wood and was in use in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages. The older type, named after the more recent type, is made of bronze, dates to the Bronze Age and was often found in pairs, deposited in bogs, mainly in Denmark.
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 instrument now known as the lur is most probably unrelated to the wooden lur, and has been named by 19th century archaeologists, after the 13th century wooden lurs mentioned by Saxo Grammaticus.
Bronze lurs date back to the Bronze Age of northern Europe, probably to the first half of the 1st millennium BC. 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.
Bronze lurs were frequently found in pairs, with the "S" of each instrument going in opposite directions, so that one is a mirror image of the other. Some of them are ornamented with carvings, and it is thought that they were used for ceremonial purposes.
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