An 18,000-year-old musical instrument played again

The seashell from the storerooms of the Natural History Museum of Toulouse in France turned out to be the oldest musical instrument. This is stated in the publication Science Advances. A large shell Charonia lampas (lat.), Larger than a human head, was discovered in the Marsoulas Cave in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Then she lay in the archive for almost a hundred years.

“In 1931, it was interpreted as a cup of love”, said Philippe Walter, director of the Laboratory for Molecular and Structural Archeology at the Sorbonne University and co-author of the study. But modern scientists drew attention to the fact that the shell spout was removed intentionally and has traces of ancient processing.

Moreover, some of the bridges were broken out of the shell (and this is not easy to do), and traces of a pattern applied by red pigment were found on the surface. These features were revealed by computed tomography. Scientists suggested that a mouthpiece was attached to the removed spout using some kind of natural compound (probably based on wood resin). This is how wind instruments are made from shells in New Guinea.

An 18000-year-old musical instrument played again

Indeed, the wind instrument, finally recovered from an ancient shell, has shown itself well. A professional musician managed to extract three sounds from it, close to the notes C, C sharp and D (256, 265 and 285 Hz). The scientists liked the sounds – and they recorded them for everyone to see.

In addition, it turned out that the arrangement of the red spots on the shell is similar in style to the ancient images on the walls of the cave where it was found. And since the cave is located 30 km from the nearest coast, it is clear that the shell was of a certain value – otherwise why would the ancient people carry it so far.

Thus, the shell from the Marsulas Cave claims to be the oldest musical instrument – its age, according to scientists, is more than 18,000 years. Although the version with the love cup is also attractive in its own way. Research is ongoing.

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