Oxford and Tübingen scientists have identified what they believe are the world’s oldest known musical instruments.
In their paper in the Journal of Human Evolution, the scientists report new results of radiocarbon dating for animal bones, excavated in the same archaeological layers as the musical instruments and early art, at Geißenklösterle Cave in the Swabian Jura of southern Germany.
The musical instruments take the form of flutes made from the bird bones and mammoth ivory. The animal bones bear cuts and marks from human hunting and eating. They were excavated at a key site, which is widely believed to have been occupied by some of first modern humans to arrive in Europe.
The researchers suggest that the Aurignacian, a culture linked with early modern humans and dating to the Upper Paleolithic period, began at the site between 42,000 and 43,000 years ago.
According to these findings, the artifacts from Geißenklösterle Cave are 2,000 to 3,000 years older than previously thought. So far these dates are the earliest for the Aurignacian and predate equivalent sites from Italy, France, England and other regions.