An ancient bone flute, estimated to be about 40,000—82,000 years old, is the World’s Oldest Musical Instrument and was found by Dr Ivan Turk (Slovenia), a palaeontologist at the Slovenian Academy of Science at a Neanderthal campsite in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in 1998. The oldest known musical instrument, it is made of an old cavebear femur segment with four holes (two complete and two partial).
With five finger holes and a V-shaped mouthpiece, the almost complete bird-bone flute—made from the naturally hollow wing bone of a griffon vulture—is just 0.3 inch (8 millimeters) wide and was originally about 13 inches (34 centimeters) long.
Flute fragments found earlier at the nearby site of Geissenklösterle have been dated to around 35,000 years ago.
Using only stone tools, the flute maker would have had to split a section of curved ivory along its natural grain. The two halves would then have been hollowed out, carved, and fitted together with an airtight seal.
Music as a Weapon?
Music may have been one of the cultural accomplishments that gave the first European modern-human (Homo sapiens) settlers an advantage over their now extinct Neanderthal-human (Homo neanderthalis) cousins, according to the team.
The ancient flutes are evidence for an early musical tradition that likely helped modern humans communicate and form tighter social bonds, the researchers argue.