Oldest-Known Musical Instruments Found in Germany
A team of researchers has excavated flutes made from mammoth ivory and bird bone from a cave in southern Germany which they say are the oldest known musical instruments in the world.
Professor Tom Higham from Oxford University led the team of researchers in carbon dating the flutes. His estimates put their age between 42,000 and 43,000 years old.
Many other artifacts that indicate a human and cultural presence have been found at the Geissenkloesterle Cave. The flutes and the other findings are important in dating the migration of the humans to the Upper Danube Region.
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The flutes were excavated by Professor Nick Conard who had identified the previous record holder for oldest instrument in 2009.
"These results are consistent with a hypothesis we made several years ago that the Danube River was a key corridor for the movement of humans and technological innovations into central Europe between 40,000-45,000 years ago," he told BBC.
Music is also thought to have been a distinguishing characteristic that allowed our species, Homo sapiens, to out perform Neanderthals. One theory is that music was an important social tool that allowed Homo sapiens to maintain larger networks and expand into new territory more easily than their more conservative cousins.
The findings also indicate that humans might have been present in Europe before an extremely cold climatic phase 39,000 years ago rather than migrating up there immediately after it.
"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," said Professor Higham to BBC.