The world’s oldest flute

It was carved from the bone of a griffon vulture approximately 35,000 years ago.

Archaeologists found it at Hohle Fels Cave in Germany along with a variety of other artifacts and stone age debris.

The preserved portion is about 8.5 inches long and includes the end of the instrument into which the musician blew. The maker carved two deep, V-shaped notches there, and four fine lines near the finger holes. The other end appears to have been broken off; judging by the typical length of these bird bones, two or three inches are missing.

There are other similar instruments extant from other caves in the area, but this is the oldest found so far. It was lying in the sediment next to another historical first: the 35,000 year old sculpture of a buxom dame announced in May.

Now thanks to experimental archaeologist Wulf Hein’s reproduction of the flute, you can be transported back 35,000 years and hear what they heard.

Hear the flute for the first time in 35,000 years

Lovely, haunting sound, isn’t it? I bet it sounds really great in cave acoustics, too.


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Comment by Clutch
2009-07-02 07:19:22

It’s well-tuned, innit? For something that old, it wouldn’t have surprised me had it just produced squeaks and whistles. In fact it’s just a bit airy, and otherwise pretty pure.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-07-02 08:18:15

I wonder if the airiness is because of the missing section at the end. It certainly doesn’t sound like a broken instrument.

Comment by Ensign Steve
2009-07-02 07:28:06

The flute and the lady sculpture came from the same people? I would love to party with that crowd.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-07-02 08:19:23

They were found close by and at the same sediment level, so either it was one crew or that cave saw some awesome back-to-back action.

Comment by M
2009-07-02 10:23:59

Thanks for posting the music! I knew about this flute, but until now I hadn’t heard the replica. Lovely sound.

I also didn’t know about the discovery of the statuette. Fascinating! What amazing discoveries.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-07-02 10:26:35

Isn’t it amazing? I had heard about the statuette and the flute separately, but I didn’t realize until I read the NYT article on the flute that they came from the same era in the same cave.

It looks like Hohle Fels Cave was the place to be 35,000 years ago. :)

Comment by Mr Lemming
2009-07-02 16:32:27

Without the breasts, the statue looks exactly like a turkey set for the oven. Even with them I can’t help seeing that. Mebbe I’m just hungry. :D

Comment by livius drusus
2009-07-02 16:52:05

That’s so wrong it’s right. :lol:

Comment by fragment
2009-07-02 20:23:10

Major pentatonic scale in that reconstruction, although the same notes could have been used with other tonal centres for other scales. Makes sense, it’s a fairly fundamental set of notes that have been used over a variety of cultures.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-07-02 20:37:20

That’s a little over my head, I’m afraid, but totally cool nonetheless. :cool:

Comment by JeepBoiFL
2009-09-27 21:51:58

The flute sound was pure and simple just like the sculpture, wonderfull. It seems to me that the lack of a head on the female sculpture and the obvious oversizing of “other parts” shows us that men have always had the same opinion of what makes up the perfect women. :evil:

Comment by livius drusus
2009-09-27 21:56:35

Enough lung capacity to play a mean flute? ;)

Comment by victoria
2011-05-17 04:04:34

:( :( :( :( :( ??? :angry: :angry: :angry: :angry: :angry:

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