43,000-Year-Old Musical Instruments Found


New dating methods have pushed back the dates of previously found musical instruments, figurative art, and mythical imagery. This makes them the oldest yet found.

These human-created objects found in Geißenklösterle Cave in southwest Germany have been dated using new methods designed to remove contamination. The new dating methods have produced ages between 42,000 to 43,000 years old.

These dates push back the starting date of the “Aurignacian period.” The Aurignacian culture is one of oldest cultures to have left artifacts such as figurative art, musical instruments, personal ornaments, and mythical imagery.

These dates are older than the Aurignacian dates found in France, Italy, England, and other areas. This supports the Danube corridor hypothesis, which says that “modern” humans first migrated through the Danube drainage. With later migrations forming the majority of modern European DNA. Most modern Europeans would be much more closely related to later Middle Eastern immigrants from around 10,000 years ago than to these earlier Europeans.

20120527-015555.jpg Geißenklösterle Cave is one of several caves in the Swabian Jura to have produced important examples of these artifacts.

These new dates suggest that modern humans entered the Upper Danube region prior to an extremely cold climatic phase referred to as the H4 event around 40,000 years ago. Previously, it had been a matter of argument among researchers whether humans came before or after this event.

Now, it looks as though the first modern humans entered southwestern Germany during a mild phase of the last ice age, under conditions where they could have had contact with Neanderthals. But, so far, no evidence of cultural contact between the two has been found in that area.


These dates point to the Upper Danube Valley as the possible homeland of the Aurignacian culture. The Swabian caves contain the earliest records of the technology and art that are characteristic of the Aurignacian.

The central focus of new research in this area is resolving whether these technological innovations were in response to climatic stress, conflict with the stronger and larger-brained Neanderthals, or other social-cultural dynamics such as slave-keeping.

Source: Universität Tübingen
Image Credits: Württembergisches Landesmuseum Stuttgart, Universität Tübingen

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