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Hear an 18,000-year-old instrument sing again


We also know that life must not have been as well terrible, because people had the time and the energy to make music. And after all, they didn’t need an instrument to make music in the first place. “With a voice, we can make music”, explains archaeologist Carole Fritz of the University of Toulouse, corresponding author on the paper. In other words, the shell is foreign: “It’s not an obligation,” she says.

“I think music is a very symbolic art for people,” Fritz adds. It would have had a double symbolism, really – used both in everyday life and for spiritual practices. “For these people, the spiritual and the life are the same thing,” he says.

The find highlights the richness of Upper Paleolithic culture, says University of Victoria Paleolithic archaeologist April Nowell, who was not involved in the research. “We have music, we have art, we have textiles, we have ceramics,” she says. “They were really complex people.”

We can also look to our own psyche for clues to the importance of music to the peoples of the Upper Paleolithic. Think about how music galvanizes modern humans: in the old days, we paid hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to cram venues not only to hear our favorite artists, but also to vibrate with fans sharing them. same ideas. We get chills when we hear haunting music, and we get pumped like hell when we listen Led Zeppelin III (“Immigrant Song” and “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”, in particular). And we always use music to prepare for the party. “I got really interested in the Upper Paleolithic,” Nowell says, “in terms of how music might have been used to manipulate or redirect people’s feelings – about people both within their culture and beyond. about their culture – and how it might redirect action. “

This conch shell was far from the very first instrument. Archaeologists have found 40,000-year-old flutes made of hollowed-out animal bones with drilled holes. Ancient peoples probably also made percussion instruments with gourds that could be shaken and stretched animal skins that could be beaten. But these materials, sadly, are perishable, as this conch shell has persisted through the ages, still bearing literal marks of human ingenuity.

And here we are almost 20,000 years later, listening to the same bellowing music of our very, very distant ancestors. “There is nothing else on Earth, I think, that is as powerful as music to bring people together,” Nowell says. “It does it for us, even though we’re 18,000 years apart.”


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