Thursday, June 25, 2009

35,000 Year Old Flute Found in Germany

Paleo: ancient, early, prehistoric, primitive

Within the Hohle Fels Cave in the Ach Valley, 20 km west of Ulm, Germany, evidence of bone and ivory flutes that date back 35,000 years have been uncovered. This time period falls within what scientists refer to as "Paleolithic" times and when ice age glaciers still covered most of the Northeast of what is now the United States.

"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 maker of the flute carved the instrument from the radius of a griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus). This species has a wingspan between 230 and 265 cm and provides bones ideal for large flutes. Griffon vultures and other vultures are documented in the Upper Paleolithic sediments of the Swabian caves." -

Journal reference:

  1. Conard, N.J. et al. New flutes document the earliest musical tradition in southwestern Germany. Nature, June 26, 2009

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