“Where Words Fail, Music Speaks”, Hans Christian Andersen.
Isn’t it true that music is so important to life in general? Do you think our ancestors had well-established music traditions? Well, the answer to these questions is Yes! Dating back to the Paleolithic era, humans were already making an effort to make musical instruments from bones, stones, and even wood. With evolving brains, musical instruments have too evolved brilliantly.
Here’s our list of the 10 Primeval Musical Instruments ever discovered! keep reading to give yourself a dose of some ancient knowledge:
Geisenklösterle Flutes, Germany (42,000 – 43,000 years old)
Source: Live science
The oldest musical instrument ever discovered is almost 43000 years old. It is a set of three flutes commonly known as Geisenklösterle Flutes, that are linked to the Aurignacian culture of Ancient Europe. Found at the archaeological site of Geisenklösterle Cave in Blaubeuren, Germany, they reinforce the hypothesis that the Danube River was commonly used by people entering Central Europe. Two of these flutes are made using mute swan bones, whereas one is made of mammoth ivory. According to the researchers, this flute set, like most of the other primeval musical instruments, was used by large groups of ancient humans to maintain and develop strong bonds with people of other territories.
Divje Babe Flute, Slovenia (43,100 years old)
A comparatively controversial ancient musical instrument, Divje Babe Flute was originally found in 1995. The discovery was made in Cerkno, Slovenia and after running several tests, researchers estimated it to be around 43,000 years old. The flute is assumed to be a fragment of the cave bear femur, with three spaced piercings. Many studies even proved that the flute belonged to the Neanderthals.
Divje Flute has drawn a lot of attention over the past years and it was only in 2015 that a new study came to light, stating it to be just a bone piece chewed up by hyenas. Currently, Divje Babe Flute is exhibited in The National Museum, Slovenia.
Hohle Fels Flute, Germany (35,000 – 40,000 years old)
Source: Wikimedia commons
Just after the researchers discovered the Venus of Hohle Fels, one of the world’s oldest sculptures at Baden-Württemberg in Germany, they found numerous other fragments of what seemed like an ancient musical instrument at the same location. After rebuilding its fragments, the flute is approximately 21.8 cm long and is assumed to be 35,000-40,000 years of age. The flute was finally published in 2009 and is now known as ‘Hohle Fels Flute’. It is made from a Griffon Vulture Bone and has 5 holes.
Later, the archaeologist found several other pieces of the flute. According to them, our ancestors had a properly established musical tradition and were well-aware of music in general.
Isturitz Flutes, France (20,000 – 35,000 years old)
Isturitz Flutes were first published in 1991, after being discovered at the well-known archaeological site of Isturitz Caves located in Southwestern France. More than 22 fragments or pieces of flutes were found at the site and are assumed to belong to different cultures. These approximately 20,000 to 35,000 years old flutes were a part of the Magdalenian, Gravettian, and Aurignacian cultures.
The archaeologists believe that Isturitz Flutes of France being well-crafted, indicate an established musical tradition in Europe. The material used in their making is Vulture wing bones and the area around finger holes seems polished.
Bullroarer (about 20,000 years old)
Aging around 20,000 years, Bullroarer stands fifth on our list of the 10 most ancient music instruments ever discovered. It was mostly used in the Magdalenian and Solutrean periods. Other than Europe, this instrument has been found in different parts of the world such as Africa, Asia, India, America, and Australia. There are historical shreds of evidence that prove Bullroarer to be a ritual instrument used by several distinct cultures to communicate over long distances. It is usually made using a cord and a thin slat of wood. Dating back to 18000 BC, researchers say that the oldest known example of an ancient Bullroarer was discovered in Ukraine.
Lithophones (between 4,000 and 10,000 years old)
Source: Ancient origins
Lithophones have been uncovered across the world in different locations as primeval musical instruments. Some of its oldest known examples are from Vietnam and India. They are estimated to be between 4000 to 10,000 years of age. One of them is called Dan Da which was found in Vietnam and is made up of 11 big stone slabs. The other well-known Lithophones examples include The Musical Stones of Skiddaw. The word Lithophone is generally used for an instrument made from several rock pieces that produce musical notes when struck.
Jiahu Flutes, China (7,000 – 9,000 years old)
Jiahu Flutes of China got its name after being first discovered at Jiahu at Yellow River Valley. They are a set of almost 30 flutes which are believed to be 7,000 to 9,000 years old. Out of them all, only six flutes are complete and capable of playing multi-note music. They are even considered to be the oldest-known playable and multi-note music instrument in the world. According to the archaeologists, Jiahu Flutes are made up of the hollowed bones that specifically belonged to the Red Crown Crane. Varying in shape and size, these flutes consist of 5 to 8 spaced holes.
Mesopotamian lyre, Southern Iraq (over 4,000 years ago)
Source: Ancient origins
Originally belonging to Mesopotamia (the present-day Southern-Iraq), the Mesopotamian Lyre was an important musical instrument of its time. Over 4000 years ago, this was used for numerous rituals, occasions, and celebrations in the ancient world. After finding enough evidence, researchers believe that music was an essential part of the Mesopotamian era. This lyre is made up of red limestone and is preciously decorated with silver. The strings and frame of the Mesopotamian Lyre were reproduced. Other depictions include a tree on a hill, a lion attacking a gazelle, and a goat.
Tutankhamun’s Trumpets, Egypt (about 3,340 years old)
In 1922, Howard Carter, an archaeologist, discovered a pair of trumpets in Egypt. Found during the excavation of Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s Tomb, these trumpets are assumed to be the oldest ever playable trumpets known to us. One of these trumpets is made with sterling silver, while the other is made up of copper or bronze. They are believed to be the only surviving ones from Ancient Egypt with an age of 3,340 years. Tutankhamun’s Trumpets have several beautiful engravings of Ptah and Amun and are still in playable condition.
Ancient Egyptian harp (over 3,000 years old)
Source: British museum
The Ancient Egyptian Harp was excavated near the Tomb of Ani in Thebes, Egypt. It is believed to be approximately 3000 years old. According to the researchers, harps were usually played at Egyptian Banquets in the ancient world and the songs played using these harps were mostly dedicated to deities. Scenes of singers playing instruments including harps are still depicted on the wall of Ani’s Tomb.