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Bone Flute Oldest Instrument - Art Caves 'Were Concert Halls'

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Author Topic: Bone Flute Oldest Instrument - Art Caves 'Were Concert Halls'  (Read 177 times)
Bianca
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« on: June 25, 2009, 12:10:00 pm »








Fashioned from a griffon vulture's wing bone, this flute (shown from different angles and with finger holes enlarged in inset) may be the world's oldest instrument, a June 2009 study says.

The 40,000-year-old flute, found in a German cave, bolsters the argument that music helped modern humans bond—to the detriment of competing, presumably music-less Neanderthals—the study says.



Photograph by
H. Jenen,

courtesy
University of Tübingen
« Last Edit: June 25, 2009, 12:13:22 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2009, 12:14:56 pm »










                                               Bone Flute Is Oldest Instrument






James Owen
for National Geographic News
June 24, 2009

A vulture-bone flute discovered in a European cave is likely the world's oldest recognizable musical instrument and pushes back humanity's musical roots, a new study says.

Found with fragments of mammoth-ivory flutes, the 40,000-year-old artifact also adds to evidence that music may have given the first European modern humans a strategic advantage over Neanderthals, researchers say.

The bone-flute pieces were found in 2008 at Hohle Fels, a Stone Age cave in southern Germany, according to the study, led by archaeologist Nicholas Conard of the University of Tübingen in Germany.

With five finger holes and a V-shaped mouthpiece, the almost complete bird-bone flute—made from the naturally hollow wing bone of a griffon vulture—is just 0.3 inch (8 millimeters) wide and was originally about 13 inches (34 centimeters) long.

Flute fragments found earlier at the nearby site of Geissenklösterle have been dated to around 35,000 years ago.

The newfound flutes, though, "date to the very period of settlement in the region by modern humans ... about 40,000 years ago," Conard said.

The mammoth-ivory flutes would have been especially challenging to make, the team said.

Using only stone tools, the flute maker would have had to split a section of curved ivory along its natural grain. The two halves would then have been hollowed out, carved, and fitted together with an airtight seal.



(Also see "Stone Age Art Caves May Have Been Concert Halls.")
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Bianca
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« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2009, 12:15:55 pm »










Music as a Weapon?



Music may have been one of the cultural accomplishments that gave the first European modern-human (Homo sapiens) settlers an advantage over their now extinct Neanderthal-human (Homo neanderthalis) cousins, according to the team.

The ancient flutes are evidence for an early musical tradition that likely helped modern humans communicate and form tighter social bonds, the researchers argue.

"Think how important music is for us," Conard said. "Whether it's at church, a party, or just for fun, you can see how powerful music can be. People often hear a song and cry, or feel great joy or sorrow. All of those kinds of emotions help bond people together."

Music may therefore have been important to maintaining and strengthening Stone Age social networks among modern humans, allowing for greater societal organization and strategizing, said Conard, whose study appears today on the Web site of the journal Nature.
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Bianca
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« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2009, 12:16:46 pm »










Sour Note?



Some may doubt, though, that modern humans made the newfound flutes, or even that the instruments are the oldest on record.

A cave-bear bone found at a Stone Age site in Slovenia has been suggested as an even older flute, and perhaps even Neanderthal in origin. But many archaeologists are unconvinced, due to the ambiguous appearance of the bone.

"I don't think anyone takes that find too seriously," Conard said.

Even so, the archaeologist admits he can't completely rule out the possibility the newfound flutes were actually made by Neanderthals.

But, he said, decorative artifacts found alongside the flutes—most notably a recently reported ivory figurine of a woman with an exaggerated figure—make a Neanderthal origin "extremely unlikely," Conard said.

Around the flutes were "all kinds of things we never find with Neanderthals, and it seems a lot more plausible that they were made by modern humans," he said.

Lost in the debate is what would have likely been the key question among the flutes' prehistoric creators: How do they sound?

Last week a replica of the vulture-bone flute was sent to a professional musician, who coaxed out low-pitched sounds across a wide range of tones, Conrad said.

Renditions of the German national anthem and "Amazing Grace" made clear that the prehistoric flute is a truly different beast from modern-day instruments. Or, Conrad suggested, maybe the player just needs a little more time with it.
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Bianca
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« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2009, 12:17:55 pm »








The mammoth art seen above, in the Arcy-sur-Cure near Burgundy, France, is located in the most resonant part of the main cave.

Arcy-sur-Cure is one of at least ten sites where paleolithic cave sketches are clustered in particularly resonant spots, suggesting a link between art and music in paleolithic rituals, an expert announced in July 2008.



Collection
La Varende,

photograph
M. Girard

courtesy
Iegor Reznikoff
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Bianca
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« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2009, 12:19:17 pm »










                                   Stone Age Art Caves May Have Been Concert Halls






Ker Than
for National Geographic News
July 2, 2008

Prehistoric peoples chose places of natural resonant sound to draw their famed cave sketches, according to new analyses of paleolithic caves in France.

In at least ten locations, drawings of horses, bison, and mammoths seem to match locations that focus, amplify, and transform the sounds of human voices and musical instruments.


 
"France's Magical Ice Age Art" in National Geographic Magazine Earliest Oil Paintings Found in Famed Afghan Caves (February 6, 2008)

"In the cave of Niaux in Ariège, most of the remarkable paintings are situated in the resonant Salon Noir, which sounds like a Romanesque chapel," said Iegor Reznikoff, an acoustics expert at the University of Paris who conducted the research.



The sites would therefore have served as places of natural power, supporting the theory that decorated caves were backdrops for religious and magical rituals.

An intriguing possibility—but one that Reznikoff admits is hard to test—is that the acoustic properties of a cave partly influenced what animals were painted on its walls.

For example, "maybe horses are related to spaces that sound a certain way," he said.

Reznikoff will present his latest findings this week at the annual meeting of the Acoustics Society of America in Paris. 
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« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2009, 12:20:30 pm »









Strategic Placement



Reznikoff first noticed the strategic placement of cave art while visiting Le Portel, a paleolithic cave in France, in 1983.

An expert in the acoustics of 11th- and 12th-century European churches, Reznikoff often hums to himself when entering a room for the first time so he can "feel its sounds."

He was surprised to discover that in some of the rooms in Le Portel decorated with painted animals, his humming became noticeably louder and clearer.

"Immediately the idea came," he told National Geographic News. "Would there be a relationship between the location of the painting and the quality of the resonance in these locations?"

Since that moment, Reznikoff has found correlations between painting locations and the resonance of their surroundings in more than ten paleolithic caves across France with illustrations ranging from 25,000 to 15,000 years old.

Many are packed together in parts of the caves where the human voice is amplified and where songs and chants would have lingered in the air as abiding echoes.

Paul Pettitt, a paleolithic rock art expert at the University of Sheffield in the U.K. who was not involved in the study, said Reznikoff's theory could explain the puzzling distribution of paintings at many cave sites.

"In a number of decorated caves the images cluster in certain areas," Pettitt said. "They are not randomly distributed but seem deliberately placed, with areas of perfectly 'paintable' walls ignored, and in a number of cases the paintings cluster in areas of resonance."
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« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2009, 12:21:47 pm »










Artistic Connection



Ian Cross, director of the Centre for Music and Science at the University of Cambridge, was not involved in the study.

Cross said Reznikoff's theory is "interesting" and warrants further investigation.

"What he's done strongly suggests that there are grounds for following this up with some properly controlled studies" involving detailed acoustical measurements, Cross said.

Pettitt, the University of Sheffield archaeologist, said Reznikoff's research is consistent with other work that suggests music and dance played an integral role in the lives of ancient people.

Instruments such as bone flutes and "roarers"—bone and ivory instruments that whir rhythmically when spun—have been found in decorated caves.

In rare instances, cave images include highly stylized females who appear to be dancing or enigmatic, part-animal "sorcerer" figures engaging in what seem to be transformational dances.

"This is therefore an artistic connection between dance and art. Perhaps in this case the art is recording specific ritual events," Pettitt said. "It is inconceivable that such rituals would have taken place in silence."
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Bianca
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« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2009, 12:22:54 pm »










Artistic Connection



Ian Cross, director of the Centre for Music and Science at the University of Cambridge, was not involved in the study.

Cross said Reznikoff's theory is "interesting" and warrants further investigation.

"What he's done strongly suggests that there are grounds for following this up with some properly controlled studies" involving detailed acoustical measurements, Cross said.

Pettitt, the University of Sheffield archaeologist, said Reznikoff's research is consistent with other work that suggests music and dance played an integral role in the lives of ancient people.

Instruments such as bone flutes and "roarers"—bone and ivory instruments that whir rhythmically when spun—have been found in decorated caves.

In rare instances, cave images include highly stylized females who appear to be dancing or enigmatic, part-animal "sorcerer" figures engaging in what seem to be transformational dances.

"This is therefore an artistic connection between dance and art. Perhaps in this case the art is recording specific ritual events," Pettitt said. "It is inconceivable that such rituals would have taken place in silence."
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