The New York Times reports on a German discovery – or, really, a whole set of discoveries – of Stone Age tools, sculptures and the oldest known flutes:
Dr. Conard, a professor of archaeology, said in an e-mail message from Germany that “the new flutes must be very close to 40,000 calendar years old and certainly date to the initial settlement of the region.”
The most significant of the new artifacts, the archaeologists said, was a flute made from a hollow bone from a griffon vulture; griffon skeletons are often found in these caves. The preserved portion is about 8.5 inches long and includes the end of the instrument into which the musician blew. The maker carved two deep, V-shaped notches there, and four fine lines near the finger holes. The other end appears to have been broken off; judging by the typical length of these bird bones, two or three inches are missing.
Dr. Conard’s discovery in 2004 of the seven-inch three-hole ivory flute at the Geissenklösterle cave, also near Ulm, inspired him to widen his search of caves, saying at the time that southern Germany “may have been one of the places where human culture originated.”
Friedrich Seeberger, a German specialist in ancient music, reproduced the ivory flute in wood. Experimenting with the replica, he found that the ancient flute produced a range of notes comparable in many ways to modern flutes. “The tones are quite harmonic,” he said.
A replica has yet to be made of the recent discovery, but the archaeologists said they expected the five-hole flute with its larger diameter to “provide a comparable, or perhaps greater, range of notes and musical possibilities.”
I’d love to have that guy’s job. “I make cave man music.”
And somehow, I can easily believe that it’d be much more harmonic and less brutal than ours today.