Letter

Nature 460, 737-740 (6 August 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature08169; Received 29 March 2009; Accepted 29 May 2009; Published online 24 June 2009

New flutes document the earliest musical tradition in southwestern Germany

Nicholas J. Conard1, Maria Malina2 & Susanne C. Münzel3

  1. Abteilung für Ältere Urgeschichte und Quartärökologie, Institut für Ur-und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters, Universität Tübingen, Schloss Hohentübingen, 72070 Tübingen, Germany
  2. Research Project: The Role of Culture in The Early Expansions of Humans, Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften,
  3. Zentrum für Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie, Universität Tübingen, Rümelinstrasse 23, 72070 Tübingen, Germany

Correspondence to: Nicholas J. Conard1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to N.J.C. (Email: nicholas.conard@uni-tuebingen.de).

Considerable debate surrounds claims for early evidence of music in the archaeological record1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Researchers universally accept the existence of complex musical instruments as an indication of fully modern behaviour and advanced symbolic communication1 but, owing to the scarcity of finds, the archaeological record of the evolution and spread of music remains incomplete. Although arguments have been made for Neanderthal musical traditions and the presence of musical instruments in Middle Palaeolithic assemblages, concrete evidence to support these claims is lacking1, 2, 3, 4. Here we report the discovery of bone and ivory flutes from the early Aurignacian period of southwestern Germany. These finds demonstrate the presence of a well-established musical tradition at the time when modern humans colonized Europe, more than 35,000 calendar years ago. Other than the caves of the Swabian Jura, the earliest secure archaeological evidence for music comes from sites in France and Austria and post-date 30,000 years ago6, 7, 8.

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