Oldest Musical Instruments: Prehistoric Flutes or Extinct Animal Bones?

Oldest Musical Instruments: Prehistoric Flutes or Extinct Animal Bones?



Throughout human history, music has played a vital role in our cultural and social development. The origin of music and the discovery of the oldest musical instruments have long intrigued archaeologists and musicologists. Two contenders for the title of the oldest musical instruments are prehistoric flutes and instruments made from extinct animal bones. Let’s delve into this intriguing debate.

Prehistoric Flutes


When it comes to ancient musical instruments, prehistoric flutes hold a significant place in our understanding of early human musical expressions. The oldest known flute, called the Divje Babe flute, was discovered in a cave in Slovenia in 1995. This instrument is estimated to be around 43,000 years old, making it one of the earliest musical artifacts found to date.


Prehistoric flutes were typically made from various materials such as bone, ivory, or even hollowed-out bird bones. These early flutes often showcased intricate carvings and patterns, suggesting a level of craftsmanship and artistic expression. The discovery of these flutes provides insights into the musical capabilities of our ancestors and the universality of music across different cultures and time periods.

Extinct Animal Bones


In addition to prehistoric flutes, instruments made from the bones of extinct animals have also been discovered, adding another dimension to the oldest musical instrument debate. For example, the Neanderthal flute, dating back about 60,000 years, is made from the tibia bone of a bear. This indicates that our ancient relatives also had a keen interest in creating music using the resources available to them.


Extinct animal bone instruments provide valuable clues about the musical practices and preferences of our distant ancestors. They highlight the resourcefulness and creativity of early humans, as they adapted the materials around them to produce sounds and melodies.

The Debate


The debate over whether prehistoric flutes or extinct animal bone instruments claim the title of the oldest musical instruments remains a topic of discussion among scholars.


Supporters of prehistoric flutes argue that these instruments clearly exhibit intentional musical design and complexity. They believe that the carved flutes found with ancient human remains indicate a deeper cultural significance and appreciation for music.


On the other hand, proponents of extinct animal bone instruments emphasize the importance of recognizing the resourcefulness and innovative mindset of early humans. They argue that the use of bone from extinct animals represents a unique musical tradition intertwined with their environment and the need for survival.



While the debate between prehistoric flutes and extinct animal bone instruments as the oldest musical instruments continues, one thing is clear: music has been a part of human existence for thousands of years. Both types of musical artifacts shed light on the creativity, cultural expression, and the universal human fascination with music.


Whether it is the melodious tones of a prehistoric flute or the rhythmic beats produced by instruments crafted from animal bones, these ancient artifacts provide a glimpse into the musicality of our ancestors, connecting us to our shared human heritage.

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