The world’s oldest flute, made by Neanderthals

Thilo Parg / CC BY-SA (

Divje Babe is a cave which lies 230 metres above the Idrijca river near Cerkno in Slovenia. During excavations here in 1995 the archaeologist Ivan Turk made a remarkable discovery. The cave contained the remains of many cave bears but had apparently also occasionally been visited by Neanderthals and later by Homo Sapiens during the last Ice Age. In a layer of earth dating to between 50 and 60 thousand years ago they found a flute – the oldest musical instrument ever found.

A number of other prehistoric flutes have been found but they were all made by Homo Sapiens some 20,000 years later than this instrument. This is the first evidence that Neanderthals also used musical instruments.

Thilo Parg / CC BY-SA (

The flute is 11.4 centimetres long and was made from the left thigh bone of a young cave bear. Four holes had been made in it. It can be seen in the permanent collection in the National Museum in Slovenia and more information is available on the website of the museum.

During recent years some articles have expressed doubt as to whether this really is a flute. One such article appeared in the National Geographic magazine.


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