Ice age people also loved music

30, 000-year-old mammoth ivory flute discovered

Flute made of mammoth ivory Hilde Jensen / T bingen University
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During excavations in the Geißenklösterle Cave near Blaubeuren in the Swabian Jura, researchers from the University of Tübingen have discovered a new musical instrument that is much older than 30, 000 years old. The find is a carefully carved from mammoth ivory flute, which is one of the oldest musical instruments on earth.

The ivory flute was discovered this year as part of the site evaluation in the review of countless ivory fragments. The 18.7 cm long flute with at least three holes was composed of a total of 31 processed ivory fragments. Together with the flutes from bird bones, which were previously discovered in the same deposits, the Geißenklösterle has now supplied three of the world's oldest known musical instruments. The finds document that the origins of music can be traced back to the European Ice Age over 30, 000 years ago.

Ice Age: music more important than thought

The heavily fragmented ivory flute was located at the base of the upper Aurignacian layers of the site, making it perhaps the oldest of the three musical instruments. The Aurignacian is the first cultural unit of the Upper Palaeolithic and dates back to the time when Europe was inhabited by both the last Neanderthals and the first anatomically modern humans. The mentioned deposits of the Geißenklösterle are dated to a total of 16 14C dates to 36, 000 - 30, 000 years before today. Another dating method, thermoluminescence, has yielded two data from approximately 37, 000 years ago today. Thus, the three flutes of Geißenklösterle are much older than any other known musical instruments and show that music played a significant role in the life of our glacial ancestors.

The technique used to carve the hard ivory flute is much higher than making such an instrument from hollow bird bones. The ivory flute was carved from two carefully carved halves, which were then tied together and glued to the perfectly crafted airtight seam.

The Aurignacian inhabitants of the Swabian Alb were skilfully crafted artists, who also have many examples of the oldest figurative art. These small ivory figures are from the Geißenklösterle and three other caves in the Swabian Alb. The Geißenklösterle is the only one of these sites where musical instruments were discovered. The outstanding findings from the caves of the Swabian Jura make the region one of the key areas of earliest cultural innovations at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic. They play a significant role in the global discussion of the origins of cultural modernity. They show that not less than 35, 000 years ago, the inhabitants of the European Ice Age were culturally already on the level of historically populated populations and showed a fully developed modern behavior. display

Aesthetically pleasing music

Experiments conducted by Friedrich Seeberger, a specialist in archaeological music, prove that the aurignacian tunes are a richly varied and aesthetically pleasing piece of music, according to today's standards can. Even though it is not known which specific melodies the Stone Age musicians played, Seeberger was able to simulate the note bandwidth as well as the possible tone combinations with modern reconstructions of the flutes.

Following the press conference held on 16 December 2004 in the Department of Ancient Prehistory and Quart r cology at Hohent bingen Castle, the new Fl diete becomes Fl from bird bones in the current exhibition on this topic in the Württemberg State Museum in Stuttgart.

(idw - University of T bingen, 17.12.2004 - DLO)