A bird-bone flute unearthed in a German cave was carved some 35,000 years ago and is the oldest handcrafted musical instrument yet discovered, archaeologists say, offering the latest evidence that early modern humans in Europe had established a complex and creative culture.
A team led by University of Tuebingen archaeologist Nicholas Conard assembled the flute from 12 pieces of griffon vulture bone scattered in a small plot of the Hohle Fels cave in southern Germany.
Together, the pieces comprise a 8.6-inch (22-centimeter) instrument with five holes and a notched end. Conard said the flute was 35,000 years old.
Conard's team excavated the flute in September 2008, the same month they recovered six ivory fragments from the Hohle Fels cave that form a female figurine they believe is the oldest known sculpture of the human form.
Together, the flute and the figure — found in the same layer of sediment — suggest that modern humans had established an advanced culture in Europe 35,000 years ago, said Wil Roebroeks, an archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands who didn't participate in Conard's study.
Imagine that, people were listening to and inventing tunes some 35 thousand years ago! What melodies did they play? What kind of scale [if any] did they use? For what events in life was a musical accompaniment attached?
The right brain enjoying the freedom to discover, invent, dream.
To hear how this flute sounded, scroll to the bottom of this link
And we thought that only recently had humankind developed divergent and disparate thinking. Our 'picture' of life back then is becoming more complete with each new discovery. Apparently this cave region in Germany holds a treasure trove of infornation about our distant ancestors. With each new discovery, they seem to have been quite like us in many respects. They found time for art and music, so perhaps their life was not merely survival among the beasts, the weather and other tribes.