Flute made from mammoth ivory found at Geißenklösterle

The Swabian Jura is a mountain range in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, to the south of Stuttgart. In 2002 the area was designated a UNESCO Global Geopark because of its important geological and prehistoric heritage. In four caves in the Ach and the Lone Valley (Geißenklösterle, Hohle Fels, Hohlenstein-Stadel, and Vogelherd) some of the oldest human artefacts have been found, including the oldest known musical instruments. Many of the important finds are on display in the Urgeschichtliches Museum (UrMu) or Museum of Prehistory in Blaubeuren.

Location of Blaubeuren in the Swabian Alps, Germany Google maps

The first modern humans arrived in the area about 40,000 years ago from the southeast, following the course of the River Danube. Their culture is called the Aurignacian after the site of Aurignac in the French Pyrenees. The most important finds from this period are examples of figurative art, musical instruments and personal adornments. Among the best known items are a mammoth, a horse head, a water bird, and two statues of a lion man. With an age of about 40,000 years they belong to the oldest artworks of mankind and their high quality is quite amazing. Also found in one of the caves in 2004 was the oldest known representation of the human body, known as the Venus of Hohle Fels. Made from mammoth ivory, the figure measures 6 cm and is 40,000 years old.

Venus of Hohle Fels UrMu Blaubeuren

Undoubtedly, one of the most important finds here are the oldest known musical instruments, flutes made from the bones of swans and griffon vultures, dating back some 35,000 to 40,000 years. A flute found here in 2004 was carved from the tusk of a mammoth dating from the Ice Age, around 37,000 years ago.

Flute made from mammoth ivory found at Geißenklösterle

These and other finds from the caves, including jewellery, demonstrate that the people of the Aurignacian culture 40,000 years ago already had an appreciation of figurative art and instrumental music.

Text Alun Harvey

Source Wikipedia / Urgeschichtliches Museum Blaubeuren / www.ice-age-europe.eu

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