The discovery of what could be the oldest musical instrument ever found has been announced by Oxford University and Germany’s University of Tübingen.
Made from mammoth ivory and bird bones, the collection of early flute-like instruments were found at the same level as bones that have been radiocarbon dated at between 42,000 and 43,000 years old.
The dig site is at the Geissenkloesterle Cave in the Swabian Jura, an area of southern Germany, where other important examples of art, ornaments and other mythical imagery have been found. The Oxford team, led by Professor Tom Higham, published a report in the Journal of Human Evolution earlier this month, indicating the importance of this find.
The instruments have recognisable features such as a finely cut edge that is blown against, and several holes for changing pitch. The design of these survived for thousands of years, and similar designs can be found all around the world, but these are the most ancient discovered so far.
Scientists have pointed to the significance of these finds as an example how advanced humans were likely to have been at the time, and how such technological advancements may have given us an edge over the Neanderthal competitors of the time.
Music was likely to be an important part of early human culture, as it still is now, and would have been used in recreation and religious ritual. These tuned instruments show a more melodic possibility, rather than just the percussive image we have of our ancestors musical heritage.