World’s oldest playable musical instruments: Listen

About that 5,200-year old animation: Was there a musical score to accompany it?

Certainly flutes could have provided accompaniment: Research establishes that several neolithic bone flutes found in China are 7,000 to 9,000 years old.

9,000 year-old flutes from crane bones, Brookhaven National Lab

A 1999 release from the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) discussed the dating of the flutes:

Recent excavations at the early Neolithic site of Jiahu, located in Henan province, China, have yielded six complete bone flutes between 7,000 and 9,000 years old. Fragments of approximately 30 other flutes were also discovered. The flutes may be the earliest complete, playable, tightly-dated, multinote musical instruments.

Garman Harbottle, a chemist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and member of the Jiahu research team, helped analyze data from carbon-14 dating done in China on materials taken from the site. “Jiahu has the potential to be one of the most significant and exciting early Neolithic sites ever investigated,” said Harbottle. “The carbon dating was of crucial importance to my Chinese colleagues in establishing the age of the site and the relics found within it.”

These flutes were found in modern China, and the bowl with the jumping goat images was found in modern Iran. The spread of technology may have worked on a millennial time scale then. Did the flute technology cover the approximately 3,500 miles between the sites, in the 3,000 to 4,000 years in between their creation?

At least two .wav files exist of one of the flutes being played (here, and here), again from BNL; the actual tunes the flute creators played, we do not know, ASCAP and BMI did not protect the publication of the tunes.

What other astounding archaeological finds are out there, relatively unpublicized?


9 Responses to World’s oldest playable musical instruments: Listen

  1. […] is the oldest known animated cartoon, 5,200 years old.  There is the oldest known musical instrument, between 7,000 and 9,000 years […]


  2. […] MFB brought you the world’s oldest playable musical instrument. […]


  3. Volumity says:

    Love the post, we need more blogs like this.


  4. perolofdk says:

    Maybe this should be of interesst here about bronze age lurs,on which still can be played:
    listen at


  5. ch0cl8sngrin says:

    reminds me of some archeological artifacts found that also proves the authenticity of the bible. think i read that and tons of other interesting articles at

    ciao! :)


  6. fcassis says:

    I like very much your blog. thanks I have learned about things I like but don’t have much time to do research.


  7. Pam says:

    I had another brilliant comment, but eaten by WordPress. Instead, I present an argument that there is a lot of fascinating human heritage which is not generally known. Much of this ignorance has to do with the biases of one science against another and, still, gender. Also, a general devaluation of knowledge and intellect, at least in the US and some other countries (NZ, Australia?)

    Anyway, my nomination for a huge oversight of outstanding discoveries is Margaret Keith’s work as a graduate student (UMass Amherst) on therapeutic levels of tetracycline in Ancient Nubian diets.
    “Tetracycline-labeled human bone from ancient Sudanese Nubia (A.D. 350).
    Science 209 (4464), 1532-4 (26 Sep 1980)
    info:pmid/7001623 | info:doi/10.1126/science.7001623
    The research by Margaret Keith documents the pre-industrial ingestion of naturally occurring antibiotics in sufficient quantity to label bone. From this, one can examine the effects of antibiotic use in human health. The work is directly relevant to contemporary use of antibiotics in foodstuffs, as prescribed, or for animal husbandry, as well as drug-resistant strains of microorganisms. ABSTRACT Nubian bone recovered from an X-group cemetery (A.D. 350 to 550) exhibits a pattern of fluorescence identical to that of modern tetracycline-labeled bone. When it is viewed under ultraviolet light at 490 angstroms, fluorophors are visible as a characteristic yellow-green fluorescence on surfaces that were actively mineralizing at the time of exposure. Contamination of stored grains provided the proper environment for cultivation of tetracycline-producing Streptomycetes. Evidence for exposure to antibiotics in an archeological population is relevant to studies of the evolution of R factors and to the interpretation of health and disease within the population.”


  8. szeilenga says:

    ~What other astounding archaeological finds are out there, relatively unpublicized? — ha ha, you probably don’t want to know my answer to that question. :)

    anyway, very cool post.



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