The Divje Babe Flute is a cave bear femur pierced by spaced holes that was found in 1995 at the Divje Babe archeological park located near Cerkno in northwestern Slovenia. It has been suggested that it was made by Neanderthals as a form of musical instrument, its hole spacing and alignment leading to its being labeled a "Neanderthal flute." Slovenian archeologist Mitja Brodar, however, argues that it was made by Cro-Magnons as an element of Central European Aurignacian culture. Despite alternative hypotheses suggesting it was formed by animals, the artifact remains on prominent public display in the National Museum of Slovenia in Ljubljana as a Neanderthal flute. As such, it is possibly the world's oldest known musical instrument.
|Divje Babe Flute|
The artifact as displayed in the museum
|Created||Late Pleistocene (43100 ± 700 BP)|
|Discovered||1995 near Cerkno, Slovenia|
|Present location||National Museum of Slovenia, Ljubljana|
Divje Babe is the oldest known archaeological site in Slovenia. The location of the site is a horizontal cave, 45 metres (148 ft) long and up to 15 metres (49 ft) wide; it is 230 m (750 ft) above the Idrijca River, near Cerkno, and is accessible to visitors. Researchers of Pleistocene climate change working at the site have uncovered more than 600 archaeological items in at least ten levels, including twenty hearths and the skeletal remains of cave bears. According to the museum's statements, the presumed flute has been associated with the "end of the middle Pleistocene" and with Neanderthals, about 55,000 years ago.
In the 1920s and 1930s, archaeologist Srečko Brodar (father of Mitja Brodar) discovered tens of bones with holes at another site, the Potok Cave (Slovene: Potočka zijalka) in the Eastern Karawanks, but almost all of them were destroyed during the World War II Italian annexation. Of those still preserved, the best known is a mandible of a cave bear with three holes in the mandibular canal.
Since World War II, like specimens have been found in Mokrica Cave (Slovene: Mokriška jama) and Betal Rock Shelter (Betalov spodmol). These bones are preserved today at the National History Museum of Slovenia as well. According to Mitja Brodar, who discovered many of them, bones with holes have been dated only to the end of the Mousterian and the beginning of the Aurignacian, and have not yet been found in Western Europe. Brodar assumes these bones are still not recognized by the international research community due to the fact that most of them were found in France, and the Paleolithic is still considered to be the French's domain. Bones with holes such as those found in the Potok Cave have been ascribed to modern human Cro-Magnon, and Mitja Brodar asserts that they are an element of the Central European Aurignacian. He further posits that the Divje Babe Flute is a product of modern humans, but this has been disputed by other Slovene scholars.
In 1995, archeologist Ivan Turk of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts found the approximately 43,100-year-old cave bear femur at the Divje Babe site near a Mousterian hearth. Because it has the characteristics of a flute, he dubbed it a Neanderthal flute. Whether it is actually a flute created by Neanderthals is a subject of debate. It is broken at both ends, with two complete holes and what may be the incomplete remains of one hole at each end, meaning that the bone may have had four or more holes before being damaged. The bone fragment is the diaphysis of the left femur of a one- to two-year-old cave bear and is 133.6 mm (5.26 in) long. The maximum diameter of the two complete holes is 9.7 mm (0.38 in) and 9.0 mm (0.35 in). The distance between the centers of the holes is 35 mm (1.38 in).
If the bone is indeed a usable flute, it would be an argument for the existence of music 43 thousand years ago. Thus Ivan Turk has asserted that, whether the holes are "artificial" (made by man) or "natural" (punctures from a carnivore bite), origin is the "crucial question." An equally critical issue is that, if the holes in this "flute" are of artificial origin, to date there does not seem to be any available means to determine whether they were deliberately drilled 43 thousand years ago, or are of a more contemporary origin (as part of an elaborate hoax, perhaps).
The bone has become a noted attraction in the National Museum of Slovenia, publicized on official Slovenian websites, aired on TV with tunes played on a clay replica, and is a source of Slovenian national pride. Paintings were made, models constructed, and musicians such as biology professor and flautist Jelle Atema have played them publicly.
The probability that four randomly placed holes would appear in line in a recognizable musical scale is very low according to an analysis made by Canadian musicologist Bob Fink in 2000. Responding to the D'Errico carnivore-origin hypothesis, Turk pointed out that the features "common" between the carnivore-origin artifact and other chewed bones studied by D'Errico (see Hole shape below) do not include the alignment of the holes.
There is also no evidence that the two holes could have been bitten at the same time. The tooth spans were analyzed by all taphonomists concerned to see if any animals could bite two or more such holes at once. No match could be found to any known animals. If a match had been found, it could have been cited as prima facie evidence that the holes were animal-made. This was noted by Turk in his book and was also noted from the opposing hypothesis holders Nowell and Chase in their article in the August/October 1998 issue of Current Anthropology. Nowell wrote that holes in the specimen "were almost certainly made sequentially rather than simultaneously and that the distance between them has nothing to do with the distance between any two teeth in a wolf's jaw."
Iain Morley, despite his holding the carnivore-origin hypothesis, observed in his November 2006 article that, "[w]hilst the collections of cave bear bones examined by D'Errico...as well as those discussed by Turk...do show similar shaped and damaged holes...none of these occur in the diaphysis of a femur," as is found on the reputed flute.
Marcel Otte (director of the Museum of Prehistory, University of Liege, Belgium) pointed out in an April 2000 article in Current Anthropology that there is a possible thumb-hole on the opposite side of the Divje Babe bone, which, making five holes, would perfectly fit a human hand.
Turk wrote in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology book The Origins of Music: "If this probability [of having lined-up holes looking like a flute] were greater (and of course it isn't), it is likely that there would have been more such finds, since...carnivores in cave dens were at least as active on bones, if not more so, than people in cave dwellings...".
D'Errico made an analysis of the artifact in comparison to cave-bear bone accumulations where no hominid presence was known. They published photos of several bones with holes in them which had more or less circular holes similar to those found in the artifact, but they did not have a single bone coming even close to the linear alignment of Turk's holes. Ignoring the probability of the alignment of the holes, D'Errico's interpretation was that it was possible for the holes to have been made by an animal, and they concluded that of the available options this was the most likely. D'Errico insisted on ignoring the probability of the alignment of the holes and, even after having analyzed the artifact firsthand, claimed that "the presence of two or possibly three perforations on the suggested flute cannot therefore be considered as evidence of human manufacture, as this is a common feature in the studied sample."
Turk conducted laboratory experiments which pierced holes in fresh bear bones in the manner of carnivore punctures, and in every case, the bones split. Yet in the Divje Babe instance, the bone did not break, a fact not matching expectations of carnivore action, as Turk's results showed. Turk wrote, in his book and in his article in MIT's Origins of Music anthology, the bone shows no "counter-bites" that one would normally expect on the other side of the bone matching the immense pressure necessary for a bite to make the center holes.
Turk's 1997 book reported that the holes have similar diameters which would accommodate fingertips, and all are circular instead of oval (as carnivore bites often are). Furthermore, all are in the proper ratio of bore size to hole size found in most flutes, and the bone is the kind (femur) usually used for bone flutes.
An examination of the specimen using computed tomography was published in 2005 by Ivan Turk, in which he concluded that "the two partially preserved holes were formerly created before the damage...or before the indisputable intervention of a carnivore."
The National Museum of Slovenia argues that this evidence has "finally refuted hypotheses that the bone was perforated because of a bear bite". The manufacture by Neanderthals "is reliably proven" and its significance in the understanding of their capabilities and the development of music and speech is secure.
The issue of how much bone marrow remains in the artifact is important, because the making of flutes from bone usually includes removing the marrow.
Turk et al. (in the volume Moussterian Bone Flute, p. 160) wrote that "the marrow cavity is basically cleaned of spongiose. The colour of the marrow cavity does not differ from the colour of the external surface of the bone. So we may conclude that the marrow cavity was already open at the time.... Otherwise, it would be a darker colour than the surface of the bone, as we know from coloured marrow cavities of whole limb bones."
April Nowell stated in an interview that "at Turk's invitation, [Nowell] and Chase went to Slovenia last year... They came away even more skeptical that the bear bone had ever emitted music. For one thing, both ends had clearly been gnawed away by something, perhaps a wolf, seeking greasy marrow. The holes could have simply been perforated in the process by pointed canine or carnassial teeth, and their roundness could be due to natural damage after the bone was abandoned. The presence of marrow suggests that no one had bothered to hollow out the bone as if to create an end-blown flute. Says Nowell, '[Turk's] willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, whereas we're not.' "
Bob Fink claimed in his essay in 1997, that the bone's holes were "consistent with four notes of the diatonic scale" (do, re, mi, fa) based on the spacing of those four holes. The spacing of the holes on a modern diatonic (minor scale) flute are unique, and not evenly spaced. In essence, Fink said, they are like a simple fingerprint. The Divje Babe bone's holes matched those spacings very closely to a series of note-holes in a minor scale.
Nowell and Chase wrote in Studies In Music Archaeology III that the juvenile bear bone was too short to play those four holes in tune to any diatonic series of tones and half-tones. (Fink had suggested there may have originally been a mouthpiece extension added to the bone before it was broken.)
In a 2011 article, Matija Turk published the results of a collaboration with Ljuben Dimkaroski, an academic musician who had made replicas of the artifact. The authors argue that the instrument encompassed a range of two and a half octaves, which can be extended to three octaves by overblowing. Dimkaroski created over 30 wooden and bone replicas of the flute and experimented with them. The replicas were made from femurs of juvenile brown bears provided by the Hunters Association of Slovenia, but also calf, goat, pig, roe and red deer bones. In the end, he concentrated on playing a replica made on a femur of a juvenile cave bear from Divje Babe I Cave, to come as close as possible to the dimensions of the original.
The Bare Island projectile point is a stone projectile point of prehistoric indigenous peoples of North America. It was named by Fred Kinsey in 1959 for examples recovered at the Kent-Halley site on Bare Island in Pennsylvania.Celt (tool)
In archaeology, a celt is a long, thin, prehistoric, stone or bronze tool similar to an adze, a hoe or axe-like tool.Cist
A cist ( or ; also kist ;
from Greek: κίστη or Germanic Kiste) is a small stone-built coffin-like box or ossuary used to hold the bodies of the dead. Examples can be found across Europe and in the Middle East.
A cist may have been associated with other monuments, perhaps under a cairn or long barrow. Several cists are sometimes found close together within the same cairn or barrow. Often ornaments have been found within an excavated cist, indicating the wealth or prominence of the interred individual.
This old word is preserved in the Swedish language, where "kista" is the word for a funerary coffin.Cumberland point
A Cumberland point is a lithic projectile point, attached to a spear and used as a hunting tool. These sturdy points were intended for use as thrusting weapons and employed by various mid-Paleo-Indians (c. 11,000 BP) in the Southeastern US in the killing of large game mammals.Divje Babe
Divje Babe is a Karst cave and archaeological park overlooking the Idrijca River in Slovenia. It is noted for its Paleolithic remains, including the worked bone of cave bear known as the Divje Babe Flute, which has been interpreted as a Neanderthal musical instrument.Folsom point
Folsom points are a distinct form of knapped stone projectile points associated with the Folsom tradition of North America. The style of tool-making was named after the Folsom Site located in Folsom, New Mexico, where the first sample was found by George McJunkin within the bone structure of a bison in 1908. The Folsom point was identified as a unique style of projectile point in 1926.Grattoir de côté
A Grattoir de côté (translates from French as Side Scraper) is an archaeological term for a ridged variety of steep-scrapers distinguished by a working edge on one side. They were found at various archaeological sites in Lebanon including Ain Cheikh and Jdeideh II and are suggested to date to Upper Paleolithic stages three or four (Antelian).Grinding slab
In archaeology, a grinding slab is a ground stone artifact generally used to grind plant materials into usable size, though some slabs were used to shape other ground stone artifacts. Some grinding stones are portable; others are not and, in fact, may be part of a stone outcropping.
Grinding slabs used for plant processing typically acted as a coarse surface against which plant materials were ground using a portable hand stone, or mano ("hand" in Spanish). Variant grinding slabs are referred to as metates or querns, and have a ground-out bowl. Like all ground stone artifacts, grinding slabs are made of large-grained materials such as granite, basalt, or similar tool stones.Gudi (instrument)
The Jiahu gǔdí (Chinese: 贾湖骨笛) is the oldest known musical instrument from China, dating back to around 6000 BC. Gudi literally means "bone flute".Lamoka projectile point
Lamoka projectile points are stone projectile points manufactured by Native Americans what is now the northeastern United States, generally in the time interval of 3500-2500 B.C. They predate the invention of the bow and arrow, and are therefore not true "arrowheads", but rather atlatl dart points. They derive their name from the specimens found at the Lamoka site in Schuyler County, New York.Mitja Brodar
Mitja Brodar (1921 – 16 February 2012) was a Slovenian archaeologist. He was a son of Srečko Brodar, a pioneer of the study of the Paleolithic period in Slovenia.Paleolithic flutes
During regular archaeological excavations several flutes, that date to the European Upper Paleolithic have been discovered in caves in the Swabian Alb region of Germany. Dated and tested independently by two laboratories, in England and Germany, the artifacts are authentic products of the Homo sapiens Aurignacian archaeological culture, made in between 43,000 and 35,000 years ago. The flutes, made of bone and ivory represent the earliest known musical instruments and provide unmistakable evidence of prehistoric music. The flutes were found in the Caves with the oldest Ice Age art, where also the oldest known examples of figurative art were discovered. Music and sculpture as artistic expression have developed simutaneously among the first humans in Europe as the region is considered a key area in which various cultural innovations have developed. Experts say, besides recreation and religious ritual music might have helped to maintain larger social networks, a competitive advantage over the Neanderthals.Pesse canoe
The Pesse canoe is believed to be the world's oldest known boat, and certainly the oldest known canoe. Carbon dating indicates that the boat was constructed during the early mesolithic period between 8040 BCE and 7510 BCE. It is now in the Drents Museum in Assen, Netherlands.Plano point
In archeology, Plano point is flaked stone projectile points and tools created by the various Plano cultures of the North American Great Plains between 9000 BC and 6000 BC for hunting, and possibly to kill other humans.
They are bifacially worked and have been divided into numerous sub-groups based on variations in size, shape and function including Alberta points, Cody points, Frederick points, Eden points and Scottsbluff points. Plano points do not include the hollowing or 'fluting' found in Clovis and Folsom points.Prehistoric music
Prehistoric music (previously primitive music) is a term in the history of music for all music produced in preliterate cultures (prehistory), beginning somewhere in very late geological history. Prehistoric music is followed by ancient music in different parts of the world, but still exists in isolated areas. However, it is more common to refer to the "prehistoric" music which still survives as folk, indigenous or traditional music. Prehistoric music is studied alongside other periods within music archaeology.
Findings from Paleolithic archaeology sites suggest that prehistoric people used carving and piercing tools to create instruments. Archeologists have found Paleolithic flutes carved from bones in which lateral holes have been pierced. The Divje Babe flute, carved from a cave bear femur, is thought to be at least 40,000 years old. Instruments such as the seven-holed flute and various types of stringed instruments, such as the Ravanahatha, have been recovered from the Indus Valley Civilization archaeological sites. India has one of the oldest musical traditions in the world—references to Indian classical music (marga) are found in the Vedas, ancient scriptures of the Hindu tradition. The earliest and largest collection of prehistoric musical instruments was found in China and dates back to between 7000 and 6600 BCE.Racloir
In archeology, a racloir, also known as racloirs sur talon (French for scraper on the platform), is a certain type of flint tool made by prehistoric peoples.
It is a type of side scraper distinctive of Mousterian assemblages. It is created from a flint flake and looks like a large scraper. As well as being used for scraping hides and bark, it may also have been used as a knife. Racloirs are most associated with the Neanderthal Mousterian industry. These racloirs are retouched along the ridge between the striking platform and the dorsal face. They have shaped edges and are modified by abrupt flaking from the dorsal face.Tool stone
In archaeology, a tool stone is a type of stone that is used to manufacture stone tools,
or stones used as the raw material for tools.Generally speaking, tools that require a sharp edge are made using cryptocrystalline materials that fracture in an easily controlled conchoidal manner.
Cryptocrystalline tool stones include flint and chert, which are fine-grained sedimentary materials; rhyolite and felsite, which are igneous flowstones; and obsidian, a form of natural glass created by igneous processes. These materials fracture in a predictable fashion, and are easily resharpened. For more information on this subject, see lithic reduction.
Large-grained materials, such as basalt, granite, and sandstone, may also be used as tool stones, but for a very different purpose: they are ideal for ground stone artifacts. Whereas cryptocrystalline materials are most useful for killing and processing animals, large-grained materials are usually used for processing plant matter. Their rough faces often make excellent surfaces for grinding plant seeds. With much effort, some large-grained stones may be ground down into awls, adzes, and axes.Uniface
In archeology, a uniface is a specific type of stone tool that has been flaked on one surface only. There are two general classes of uniface tools: modified flakes—and formalized tools, which display deliberate, systematic modification of the marginal edges, evidently formed for a specific purpose.Yubetsu technique
The Yubetsu technique (湧別技法, Yūbetsu gihō) is a special technique to make microblades, proposed by Japanese scholar Yoshizaki in 1961, based on his finds in some Upper Palaeolithic sites in Hokkaido, Japan, which date from c. 13,000 bp.
The name comes from the Yūbetsu River (湧別川, Yubetsugawa), on the right bank of which the Shirataki (白滝遺跡, Shirataki Iseki) Palaeolithic sites were discovered.
To make microblades by this technique, a large biface is made into a core which looks like a tall carinated scraper. Then one lateral edge of the bifacial core is removed, producing at first a triangular spall. After, more edge removals will produce ski spalls of parallel surfaces.
This technique was also used from Mongolia to Kamchatka Peninsula during the later Pleistocene.