Saturday, June 27, 2009

Oldest Flute (so far) Found near Ulm

How old? Thirty-five thousand years. And it is unmistakeably a deliberately carved flute. The twelve pieces of it fit together to show a delicate instrument with five holes, carved from the wing bone of a griffon vulture. The finished mouth piece has a V notched into it. (The other end is missing)

Griffon vultures are now gone from Germany, but the species is not extinct. They thrive in Spain and in the Middle East.

The flute was found at Hohle Fels (which means Hollow Rock in German), a cave in the hills west of Ulm. This picture is from the ShowCaves site, and was taken by Jochen Ducheck. The cave entrance is right below the giant rock.

This is the same cave in which an equally ancient, headless, tiny, voluptuous, female-shaped carving made of mammoth ivory was found--here's my post on that. And here's another picture from ShowCaves showing an excavation near the entrance to the cave.

So. Musical instruments, lots of bones indicating successful hunts, and big-boobed statues . . . Obviously, around 35,000 years ago, Hohle Fels was party central. And that's not just mho--most of the articles, including this one from the New York Times, make some joke about Happy Hours. The Los Angeles Times story was headlined, "Germany's 1st nightclub?"

The same archaeologist (Nicholas J. Conard) that made this recent find also discovered the previous claimant to World's Oldest Flute as well--in the same area. I wrote about that on a HubPages entry, and included an interesting link to a sound recording of what that flute would sound like. Just in case you're interested. But those and other possible flutes were apparently not considered conclusive. Were the holes placed there deliberately, some nabobs of negativism queried, or were these very old bits of ivory just thin and deteriorating? Well, the vulture bone has lines--decorative, I'm guessing--as well as aligned holes, so I don't think the artifact could conceivably be anything BUT a flute.

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