Jun 25, 2009

35 Thousand Year Old Musical Instrument Unearthed

One of the oldest questions of both philosophy and anthropology is, "When did humans begin to make music?" This can be answered in many ways for music can be made without instruments of any kind. This type of vocal/physical music cannot be traced, but musical instruments can be.
Previously, the oldest archaeological evidence for musical instruments dated to around 30 thousand years in the past, with

"...the earliest secure archaeological evidence for music [coming] from sites in France and Austria and post-date 30,000 years ago." - ( Science Daily )

In the summer of 2008, excavations took place in Germany which have pushed back our understanding of humanity's music-making abilities. These took place at

the sites of Hohle Fels and Vogelherd. . . The most significant of these finds, a nearly complete bone flute, was recovered in the basal Aurignacian deposits at Hohle Fels Cave in the Ach Valley, 20 km west of Ulm. The flute was found in 12 pieces. The fragments were distributed over a vertical distance of 3 cm over a horizontal area of about 10 x 20 cm. This flute is by far the most complete of all of the musical instruments thus far recovered from the caves of Swabia.

This is an image of the amazing find.

The beauty of this find and it's dating is that it shows that humans were already music-makers and instrument-makers at the time they colonized what is now modern-day Europe. Along with the preserved bone flute, several pieces of ivory flutes were discovered.
The preserved portion of the bone flute from Hohle Fels has a length of 21.8 cm and a diameter of about 8 mm. The flute preserves five finger holes. The surfaces of the flute and the structure of the bone are in excellent condition and reveal many details about the manufacture of the flute. The maker carved two deep, V-shaped notches into one end of the instrument, presumably to form the proximal end of the flute into which the musician blew. The find density in this stratum is moderately high with much flint knapping debris, worked bone and ivory, bones of horse, reindeer, mammoth, cave bear, ibex, as well as burnt bone. No diagnostic human bones have been found in deposits of the Swabian Aurignacian, but we assume that modern humans produced the artifacts from the basal Aurignacian deposits shortly after their arrival in the region following a migration up the Danube Corridor.
The 10 radiocarbon dates from the basal Aurignacian fall between 31,000 and 40,000 years before present. Available calibrations and independent controls using other methods indicate that the flutes from Hohle Fels predate 35,000 calendar years ago. Apart from the caves of the Swabian Jura there is no convincing evidence for musical instruments predating 30,000 years before present.
These finds demonstrate that music played an important role in Aurignacian life in the Ach and Lone valleys of southwestern Germany. Most of these flutes are from archaeological contexts containing an abundance of organic and lithic artifacts, hunted fauna, and burnt bone. This evidence suggests that the inhabitants of the sites played musical instruments in diverse social and cultural contexts and that flutes were discarded with many other forms of occupational debris. - ( Science Daily )

The human condition includes the need to make and appreciate what we call music. It is evident in every single culture studied, from the present day to the prehistoric past. -FUPPETS- is comforted by this knowledge.

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