What Were the World’s First Musical Instruments – A look Back at the Roots

Music is an essential part of almost everyone’s life and it plays a minor or major role. Regardless, it is present, almost every day and is not something to be taken lightly. There are all kinds of genres of music today, most of which you will never listen to. But where has it all started? Long ago, very long ago. Take a look at some of history’s oldest instruments.

Mammoth Flute – About 43000 years old

This instrument was discovered in a cave called Geißenklösterle in Germany. This flute used to be 18.7 centimeters in length and was carved from a mammoth tusk. The flute is ivory which is notably different to that of flutes made out of bird bones. Bird bones were used in those time periods, predominantly, because they were hollow inside and required little to no effort for the holes to be made. Ivory is not hollow so the creator had to put in the work.

The Divje Babe Flute – About 43000 years old

This flute was discovered in Slovenia in the Divje Babe cave in 1995. It was believed to be the oldest instrument before the mammoth flute was found in Germany. Some believed that it was man-made, others that it was just a bone chewed by hyenas. It is debated whether it was created by Cro-Magnons or Neanderthals.

Canadian musicologist Bob Kink argued that the flute was a diatonic scale flute, making a drawing of what it used to look like when it had been whole. Regardless of the opinions, it is still on display in Slovenia in their National Museum.

Lithophones – India and Vietnam – From 4000 to 1000 years old

A lithophone is an instrument which uses rocks as its main source of resonance. The rocks are struck and produce sound. The oldest known lithophone originates in Vietnam and is known by the name Dan Da. Eleven big stones next to each other in a vertical position make up the core of this instrument. Think of them like stone xylophones, this one being vertical. They were mass produced some 200 years ago in England, a town by the name of Keswick.

Bullroarers – All over the World – 18000 years old

The oldest bullroarer was found in Ukraine and was dated back to 18000 years ago. Their purpose was long distance communication. Many more bullroarers were found, in the Americas, Australia, Asia, Africa and the rest of Europe. They were used everywhere but the Aborigines were best known for using them in ceremonial purposes.

There are more instruments to behold, most of them flutes, at least up until 2500 years ago when string instruments came to be.