Mammoth musical discovery unearthed

By Ian Cheong

The instruments, made out of bird bones and mammoth ivory, were excavated from a key archaeological site in Geißenklösterle Cave in the Swabian Jura of southern Germany.

The site is widely believed to be occupied by some of the first people who arrived in Europe.

The team used carbon dating to determine the age of the instruments as between 42,000 to 43,000 years old. The dates were obtained by Professor Tom Higham, the leader of the team of researchers from Oxford and Tuebingen University in Germany.

Professor Higham commented: “High-resolution dating of this kind is essential for establishing a reliable chronology for testing ideas to help explain the expansion of modern humans into Europe, and the processes that led to the wide range of cultural innovations, including the advent of figurative art and music.”

An excavator at the site, Professor Nick Conard of Tuebingen University, said: “Geißenklösterle is one of several caves in the region that has produced important examples of personal ornaments, figurative art, mythical imagery and musical instruments.

“The new dates prove the great antiquity of the Aurignacian in Swabia.”

Andrew Gray, a second-year music student at Teddy Hall, commented on the findings: “This is quite an interesting discovery. It shows that music is not a modern day phenomenon but instead appreciated by people millennia ago.”

Guillaume Lefevre, a second-year philosophy student at Teddy Hall, joked: “I am so excited about this discovery. I cancelled a trip to New York so that I can visit the flute in Germany and I hope it blows my mind like the way it used to be blown.”

The results also indicate that the Danube Valley was one of the earliest homelands of the Aurignacians, an archaeological culture of the Upper Palaeolithic.

Professor Higham said: “Modern humans during [this] period were in central Europe at least 2,000- 3,000 years before this climatic deterioration, when huge icebergs calved from ice sheets in the northern Atlantic and temperatures plummeted.”

The results were published in the Journal of Human Evolution, which publishes papers on all aspects of human evolution.