This is just awesome. It shows that even tens of thousands of years ago, man had a fascination with music. And today we try to close up music programs and fire music teachers; this is such an important part of our social and biological heritage. We should be saving it.
The flutes, made from bird bone and mammoth ivory, come from a cave in southern Germany which contains early evidence for the occupation of Europe by modern humans – Homo sapiens.
Scientists used carbon dating to show that the flutes were between 42,000 and 43,000 years old.
The findings are described in the Journal of Human Evolution.
Prof Nick Conard, the Tuebingen University researcher who identified the previous record-holder for oldest instrument in 2009, was excavator at the site.
He said: “These results are consistent with a hypothesis we made several years ago that the Danube River was a key corridor for the movement of humans and technological innovations into central Europe between 40,000-45,000 years ago.
“Geissenkloesterle is one of several caves in the region that has produced important examples of personal ornaments, figurative art, mythical imagery and musical instruments.”
Musical instruments may have been used in recreation or for religious ritual, experts say.