Researchers in Germany have unearthed new evidence for Paleolithic music in the form of the remains of one nearly complete bone flute and isolated small fragments of three ivory flutes. The discovery suggests the musical tradition was well established when modern humans colonized Europe over 35,000 calendar years ago.
Excavations in the summer of 2008 at the sites of Hohle Fels and Vogelherd produced the new evidence. The most significant of these finds, a nearly complete bone flute, was recovered in the basal Aurignacian deposits at Hohle Fels Cave in the Ach Valley, 20 km west of Ulm. The flute was found in 12 pieces. The fragments were distributed over a vertical distance of 3 cm over a horizontal area of about 10 x 20 cm. This flute is by far the most complete of all of the musical instruments thus far recovered from the caves of Swabia.
“These finds demonstrate the presence of a well-established musical tradition at the time when modern humans colonized Europe, more than 35,000 calendar years ago,” the authors write in the journal Nature. “Other than the caves of the Swabian Jura, the earliest secure archaeological evidence for music comes from sites in France and Austria and post-date 30,000 years ago.”