Researchers have discovered the oldest known musical instrument in the world. Researchers from Oxford University and Tübingen University have discovered a flute that dates back 42,000 to 43,000 years.
Researchers also found that the rare flute was made from bird bones and mammoth ivory. They discovered the flute at Geißenklösterle cave in Germany.
Researchers believe that the flute could have been used by the first modern humans, who had arrived in Europe. They discovered this when they were analysing the flute. They used an improved ultrafiltration method designed to remove contamination from the collagen preserved in the bones. With the collagen they found that the bone was 42,000 to 43,000 years old.
"High-resolution dating of this kind is essential for establishing a reliable chronology for testing ideas to help explain the expansion of modern humans into Europe, and the processes that led to the wide range of cultural innovations, including the advent of figurative art and music," said Professor Tom Higham, researcher at the Oxford University, in a statement.
The study also found that the Aurignacian, a culture linked with early modern humans and dating to the Upper Paleolithic period, began at the site between 42,000 and 43,000 years ago. The new dating evidence, obtained from bones at the site, provided results that are 2,000 to 3,000 years older than previously thought. So far these dates are the earliest for the Aurignacian and predate equivalent sites from Italy, France, England and other regions.
"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 and 45,000 years ago. Geißenklösterle is one of several caves in the region that has produced important examples of personal ornaments, figurative art, mythical imagery and musical instruments. The new dates prove the great antiquity of the Aurignacian in Swabia," said Professor Nick Conard, researcher at the Tübingen University, in a statement.
Researchers believe that probably modern humans could have entered the Upper Danube region before an extremely cold climatic phase at around 39,000 to 40,000 years ago.
Earlier, another group of researchers had argued that modern humans initially migrated up the Danube immediately after the extremely cold climatic phase.
"Modern humans during the Aurignacian period were in central Europe at least 2,000 to 3,000 years before this climatic deterioration, when huge icebergs calved from ice sheets in the northern Atlantic and temperatures plummeted," said Professor Higham. "The question is what effect this downturn might have had on the people in Europe at the time."
The results are also important for considering the relationship between early moderns and Neanderthals in Europe. Despite a major effort to identify archaeological signatures of interaction between Neanderthals and modern humans in this region, researchers have yet to identify indications of any cultural contact or interbreeding in this part of Europe.
Researchers believe further analysis will help them know more about the Aurignacian people.