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A couple weeks ago, proof of the oldest examples of human art made the rounds. I did not publish a post about that on here because I did not find the evidence compelling enough to warrant a discussion. Today, however, another archaeological story does deserve a nod. The Journal of Human Evolution published a paper on the oldest evidence of a human made evidence. The bone flutes come from the Geißenklösterle cave in Germany and outdate prior musical instruments by at least 5,000 years.

The flutes are made from bird bone and mammoth ivory, and look similar to the more younger examples that were announced in 2009. Tom Higham is the lead author, and the man who I presume dated the bones; the paper includes Nick Conard.

In their paper, the authors discuss the importance of the Danube River in providing a corridor to funnel humans and their technologies into central Europe during the dawn of the Aurignacian. To support this claim, the Geißenklösterle site has yielded more than just these flutes. The researchers have found personal ornaments, figurative art, mythical imagery and musical instruments from the cave, all dating to a period before the beginning of an ice age around 40,000 years ago. Highman writes,

“[Modern humans] 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… The question is what effect this downturn might have had on the people in Europe at the time.”

Higham, T., Basell, L., Jacobi, R., Wood, R., Ramsey, C., & Conard, N. (2012). Τesting models for the beginnings of the Aurignacian and the advent of figurative art and music: The radiocarbon chronology of Geißenklösterle Journal of Human Evolution DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2012.03.003

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