The earliest instrument : ritual power and fertility magic of the flute in Upper Paleolithic culture
MetadataShow full item record
The present study examines the earliest known musical instruments, Upper Paleolithic flutes. Flutes dating to the Upper Paleolithic period are the oldest musical instruments that have survived in the archeological record. These have been discovered at archeological sites in Europe dating from approximately 40,000 to 15,000 years ago. Although humans were most likely creating music prior to this time, the people who entered Europe approximately 40,000 years ago began to create musical instruments that have survived to the present day. This study investigates the significance and function of these instruments in Upper Paleolithic culture. Analysis of the artifacts is followed by discussions of archeological contexts, Upper Paleolithic art, ethnographic comparison, and the flute in mythology. Such diverse sources provide multiple layers of evidence regarding the role of the flute in Upper Paleolithic culture. The phallic shape of the instrument and the fact that it is played with the breath, also a symbol of life, connect the flute with the fertility of humans, plants, and animals, the cycle of life and death, and rebirth after death. There is evidence that the flute was intrinsically linked to these themes even in the Upper Paleolithic period, in which the flute was of vital significance, as it was magically imbued with the power to bestow life.