(Really) ancient music…


I am not talking cheesy middle of the road, or even a bit of pretentious played-on-cat-gut-strings-baroque.

Apparently some blokes were poking round a cave in Germany recently, and discovered these;

Here is the story from the BBC;

The flutes, made from bird bone and mammoth ivory, come from a cave in southern Germany which contains early evidence for the occupation of Europe by modern humans –Homo sapiens.

Scientists used carbon dating to show that the flutes were between 42,000 and 43,000 years old.

The findings are described in the Journal of Human Evolution.

A team led by Prof Tom Higham at Oxford University dated animal bones in the same ground layers as the flutes at Geissenkloesterle Cave in Germany’s Swabian Jura…

…musical instruments may have been used in recreation or for religious ritual, experts say.

And some researchers have argued that music may have been one of a suite of behaviours displayed by our species which helped give them an edge over the Neanderthals – who went extinct in most parts of Europe 30,000 years ago.

Music could have played a role in the maintenance of larger social networks, which may have helped our species expand their territory at the expense of the more conservative Neanderthals.

To put this in perspective- these flutes are old.

They were ancient long before any kind of Empire- the British, the Spanish, the Moorish, the Monghol, the Roman, the Egyptian, the Babylonian, The Hittite.

The last ice age was still carving our valleys in which we still live.

And people were sitting around fires and laughing at the day. The air was alive with the conversation as people burped out their shared meal. Smoke swirled and children slept in the shadows. Then someone brought out the instruments.

What did they play? Where there other instruments too?

Did they sing? And if so, what did they sing about?

We know that in the area around these caves complex carving and paintings were being produced. Check out the Venus Figurine for example. People were abstracting their experience with art. They were seeking after collective meaning.

All of which is a rather amazing window into where we came from, and perhaps who we still are now, and will be in the future.

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