Music in the Viking Age
Music was also an important part of life in the Viking period and played a role at gatherings, held at the poorest farm or the wealthiest aristocratic residence. A few archaeological finds tell us about this aspect of life.
The flute was an important instrument. It was usually made out of bone, but sometimes from wood. There was also the lyre, a harp-like instrument with six strings. A complete lyre has never been recovered, but from the small fragments that have been preserved, a very good idea of the instrument can nevertheless be obtained.
Regarding the human voice, we have an account by the Arabic traveller al-Tartushi. He visited Scandinavia in the 900s. Al-Tartushi wrote that he had never heard a more terrible song than the inhabitants in a town near the Baltic Sea (probably Hedeby) sang: “one hum, that was reminiscent of a dog’s howl, only even more bestial”. This was not exactly a flattering description of Viking singing! We must assume that at least they got some pleasure from the singing themselves.