According to archaeologists, an Anglo-Saxon lyre that was found in the Sutton Hoo medieval vessel burial has been discovered by archaeologists. 

A Soviet-era excavation dig in Dzhetyasar in Kazakhstan was analysed again by Dr Azilkhan Tzhekeevat. Blocks of wood discovered in 1973 were found to be musical instruments. Additional analysis further confirmed it as a 4th-century CE Lyre. 

Researchers explained that it is identical to the Sutton Hoo lyre but was three centuries older than the Sutton Hoo one.

An independent Norwegian researcher, Dr Giermund Kollitveit conducted an analysis of the Kazakhstan Lyre. He also compared the instruments to the same time.

His belief is that the English and Kazakh Lyres could have come from different regions, and they might have traveled to Europe via the Silk Road. 

An Anglo-Saxon Lyre, found as part of the Sutton Hoo medieval ship burial (right), has a cousin more than 2,400 miles away in Kazakhstan (impression, left), according to archaeologists.

Archaeologists have found that an Anglo-Saxon Lyre was part of the Sutton Hoo medieval vessel burial.


Located near Woodbridge, Suffolk, Sutton Hoo is home to two burial mounds from the 6th and 7th centuries — the latter a ship burial.

The undisturbed burial site is believed to have been the resting place of King Rædwald of East Anglia.

The vessel is oft dubbed a a ‘ghost ship’ thanks to how only its iron rivets and impressions of timber remained.

Within the ship, however, archaeologists in 1939 found a ceremonial helmet, a shield, a sword, pieces of silver plate from the Byzantine Empire and metalwork fittings made of gold and gems. 

Sutton Hoo artifacts can now be found in London’s British Museum while the National Trust has the mound site.

The Netflix historical drama, ‘The Dig’ recently featured the discovery of Sutton Hoo. 

The discovery of the Kazakh lyra only came about thanks to researchers taking a new look at excavations from the 1930s to mid 1990s – during the Soviet era. 

This excavation found numerous wooden objects that were part of a medieval settlement, Dzhetyasar, in southwest Kazahkstan, and was completed in 1973. Archeologists did not know how to further identify them. 

They were confirmed by Dr Tazhekeev as musical instruments, but this research proved them to be lyres. It matches the Sutton Hoo burial.  

‘I was stunned by the instrument’s resemblance to lyres from Western Europe, known from the same period,’ said Dr Kolltveit.

The lyre of this type is short and narrow and has a one-piece soundbox with parallel sides. It also features a curving bottom.

It was not initially identified by Sutton Hoo as a lyre when it was discovered in the 1930s, but rather as a small-sized harp because of its distinctive features.

It has been confirmed that the region had a distinctive style of lyre by more people since. 

Some other evidence suggests this type lyre predates the Romans. But most of the examples we have are early medieval, like Sutton Hoo’s instrument.

‘Until now, lyres of this type—famously known from the Sutton Hoo ship burial and the warrior grave in Trossingen, Southern Germany—are not known outside Western Europe at all,’ said Dr Kolltveit.

“As such the discovery of a strikingly similar instrument at 4,000 kilometers is groundbreaking news.

Dzhetyasar’s Dzhetyasar lyre features a match soundbox and arms with its western relatives. 

This lyre dates to approximately the 4th Century CE. It also falls within the timeline of the Northern European lyre.

‘[If]It would have been found in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, and indeed elsewhere in the West. The Dzhetyasar lyre wouldn’t have looked out of place,” Dr Kolltveit stated.

A re-analysis of finds from Soviet-era archaeological digs in Dzhetyasar, Kazakhstan, by archaeologist Dr Azilkhan Tazhekeevat, identified blocks of wood found in 1973 to be a musical instrument, with further analysis confirming it as a 4th century CE lyre

A Soviet-era archaeologist, Dr Azilkhan Tzhekeevat performed a reanalysis of archaeological finds found in Dzhetyasar in Kazakhstan. He identified blocks made of wood that were discovered in 1973 and confirmed them to be musical instruments.

It is the same type of lyre as the one found as part of the Sutton Hoo ship burial, but dates three centuries earlier than the Sutton Hoo lyre, the researchers explained

Researchers explained that it is identical to the lyre found in the Sutton Hoo ship grave, but was three centuries older than the Sutton Hoo one.

Although it was found many miles away from the Sutton Hoo model, this could address questions that had been lingering over the type of lyre.

You should also include where the music originated, which musical tradition it belonged to, and if it’s unique to Northern Europe. 

Dzhetyasar, an important location on the Silk Road is a trade route linking east and west. This raises the possibility that the Silk Road was used by the Lyre.

It is possible that the lyre style may have been exported to Byzantium or the Levant. 

Dr Kolltveit said, “I would like to work with Kazakh archaeologists in order to put together a team that can study this one instrument thoroughly.”

He stated that they still didn’t understand the technological aspects of the instrument.

Future reanalysis of Soviet-era digs, according to the researcher could reveal more about the history of this instrument as well as other items from that time.

Sutton Hoo’s Lyre might have a deeper, more global past than we thought. This suggests a musical universe that is more connected in the medieval period.

These findings were published in Antiquity.