Researchers examining flutes found in a cave located in southern Germany have discovered evidence through carbon dating that suggests they could be the oldest known instruments created by Homo sapiens.
According to researchers the flutes are aged between 42,000 and 43,000 years old.
Lead by Prof Tom Higham at Oxford University the groups official findings report to be published in the Journal of Human Evolution used animal bones dating from the same ground layers as the flutes to help determine the time of their construction.
Discovered at the Geissenkloesterle Cave in Germany’s Swabian Jura Professor Nick Conard says of the discovery:
“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.”
Experts believe instruments during the time of the flutes were used for religious ritual and possibly for recreation. Some researchers also believe that it was the Homo sapiens mastery of music that gave them an edge over Neanderthals by maintaining larger social networks which helped with the expansion efforts of early humans.
The carbon dating of the instruments could help scientists confirm that humans did in fact enter the Upper Danube region before an extremely cold climatic phase that began 39,000-40,000 years ago, previous research suggests humans did not enter the Upper Danube until after the cold climatic phase.