The 10 oldest musical instruments

The 10 oldest musical instruments

The origin of music is often related to an explosion of the cognitive capabilities of Homo sapiens 50,000-60,000 years ago: paintings, ornaments and burials are clear evidences from that moment. As part of other artistic and symbolic expressions, music contributed to the maintenance of larger social networks and the expansion of modern humans.

What was the earliest music used for? Some hypotheses are:

  • Part of religious ritual
  • Recreation
  • Motivational activities
  • Identification with a group
  • Communication and coordination
  • Tool for hunting

What are the oldest evicences? 

1) Percussion instruments

The oldest evidence may be found in the archaeological site of Mezin (Ukraine): a set of mammoth bones (scapula, femur) painted with red ochre and a reindeer antler hammer, with signs of repetitive surface damage on all of them. Some interpret these bones as musical instruments. They are dated to 24,000 years BP.

Mammooth scapula from Mezin. Photo: Don Hitchcock

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