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Short film on a Neanderthal flute
Tuesday 19 July 2022

The 60,000-year-old artefact rewriting Neanderthal history – BBC REEL

Neanderthal flute 60,000-year-old artefact BBC REEL archaeologist Ivan Turk Divje Babe cave Slovenia palaeolithic stone bone tools
A perforated bone from the Divje Babe cave in Slovenia, found in the middle of a palaeolithic layer of earth, near the remains of a Neanderthal fire place, stone and bone tools. Image: BBC

In 1995, archaeologist Ivan Turk discovered a unique perforated bone in the Divje Babe cave in Slovenia. The artefact was found in the middle of a Palaeolithic layer of earth, near the remains of a Neanderthal fire place, stone and bone tools.

Watch this fascinating short film from BBC REEL about the discovery of an excavated femur bone of a bear in which 4 aligned holes had been carefully drilled using a bear tooth. Turk believes this was a Neanderthal flute made between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago - the oldest musical instrument yet found.

What was the purpose of this Neanderthal instrument? Perhaps it was functional, as a signal whistle used to recreate sounds to attract animals on a hunt. Or perhaps a musical instrument for ritual purposes - for joy, for mourning. If so, it suggests that musical symbolic behaviour was not unique to anatomically modern humans.

Click here to watch the film

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