World's Oldest Instrument Discovered in Cave

Flutes may have helped early humans endure bitter cold
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2012 1:37 PM CDT
World's Oldest Instruments: Bird Bone Flutes
An ancient flute that experts say is the oldest known musical instrument.   (University of Tuebingen)

Researchers have identified two flutes made from mammoth ivory and bird bone as the world's oldest musical instruments, the BBC reports. Discovered in a cave in southern Germany, the flutes were likely fashioned 42,000 to 43,000 years ago, when early humans used them for religious ritual or recreation, experts say. Music may have also helped them maintain social networks as they survived dire cold in Europe and Neanderthals began to die off.

The find also confirms a theory that early humans moved up the Danube into central Europe before a very cold period about 39,000 or 40,000 years ago. Humans "were in central Europe at least 2,000 to 3,000 years before this climatic deterioration, when huge icebergs calved from ice sheets in the northern Atlantic and temperatures plummeted," says one professor. "The question is what effect this downturn might have had on the people in Europe at the time." (Now see why they had genitalia engraved on their ceiling.)

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