The oldest flutes – which of them our ancestors played, and which we still play

3 min


It is believed that one of the first tools that humans mastered were flute… Let’s talk about those that the Neanderthals did and those that remain part of the culture of individual peoples.


Photo Tomatenpflanze / CC BY-SA / Hole-Fels Cave Flute

Stone Age Sounds

In 2008 German archaeologists discovered In a cave Hole-Fels flutes carved from mammoth ivory and vulture’s radius. Their age was 35-40 thousand years, which made them the oldest musical instruments known to mankind. Flutes tuned to C major pentatonic scale – such a row composed of five notes and has no semitones. However, you can play “modern” diatonic music on them – one of the paleontologists “armed” with a replica of the instrument and reproduced anthem of the USA.

Photo dalbera / CC BY-SA
Another iconic find from the Stone Age is a cave flute Divye Babe… It is made from the thighbone of a bear consideredthat the Neanderthals.

But their creative skills are often question, so some researchers are convinced that the holes in the bone could leave predator teeth.

At the same time, musicologists claim that they are located in accordance with the notes of the diatonic scale, which cannot be an accident. Despite its controversial history, the exhibit is on display at the National Museum of Slovenia.

Ancient flutes still played today

Some ancient musical instruments can be found not only as exhibits in historical museums. They remain an integral part of the culture of the peoples and communities of our time. An example would be a longitudinal flute naiwhich appeared in Ancient Persia more than 4 thousand years ago, but the peoples of the Caucasus, Western and Central Asia still play on it.

They make a tool from a thick cane or reeds, although modern varieties can be made of metal or plastic. Five holes are cut on the front side, and one on the back. The performer puts a thin copper tube on the end of the instrument and uses it to extract music. The range covers sounds from before first octave to salt sharp second octave.

Another ancient flute still played today called didgeridoo… It appeared in Australia about 40 thousand years ago and is more like a pipe in size. The tool is made from the trunk of an eucalyptus tree after the termites eat away at its core.

The didgeridoo is unique in that it sounds on one note but has a wide tonal range. For this reason, it was used during ceremonial dances and to enter a trance.


Photo Graham crumb / CC BY-SA

Since the end of the 20th century with the didgeridoo are experimenting Western musicians such as Sophie Lakaz and Jamiroquai. In the early 90s the Irish composer Aphex Twin used the sound of the didgeridoo in a dance composition “Didgeridoo“, Which became a hit on British dance floors.

Today, musician Yanni Chrysomallis, founder of the Yanni group, also plays this instrument during live concerts – evaluate an example of his performance you can follow this video


Additional reading on Hi-Fi World:

Theremin: the instrument of the future comes from the past
Musical Instruments Before the 20th Century: Magnetic Harpsichord and Electromechanical Piano
Haken’s Continuum: an electronic instrument with the responsiveness of an acoustic
Most unusual musical instruments: Hammond organ, Vako Orchestron and Synclavier
Unusual musical instruments: ocarina, panflute, sopilka and glass harmonica
What unusual musical instruments are used in scoring horror films?



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