IfAre they defaced by hunters to attract birds? Or are musical instruments involved in other occasions of life: ritual ceremonies, even festive evenings? Seven small flutes were discovered by a Frenchman in Israel. The name of the lucky finder is Laurent Davin. The 33-year-old has worked at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s archeology lab for two years.
Drome, originally from the small village of Chederon (his grandparents had long run the local butcher shop), settled in Israel after completing his doctoral research at the Sorbonne on the ornaments of Natufian Man. An ancestor who settled in the Middle East fifteen thousand years ago. However, the Natufians lived along the Mediterranean coast to Lebanon and the Sinai desert, and inland to the Euphrates.
Read moreAnne Lehoërff: “Archaeology turns our historical knowledge on its head! » Laurent Davin found boxes of artifacts excavated between 1996 and 2005 at Einan-Mallah in northern Israel, in the warehouses of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, founded in 1918 on Mount Scopus. “There were more than a thousand animal bones in these boxes. I started looking at each one under the microscope with a different eye than the archaeologists who had studied until then. I was initially extracting feathers and looking for traces of attestation of decorations,” explains the scientist.
In the spring of 2022, while on a video conference with friends staying in France, he notices a small bone pierced with small holes. “But it’s a flute!” He exclaims before his astonished interlocutors. Laurent Davin is not at the end of his surprises. Between 12,000 and 15,000 years ago, fragments of other bones allow the reconstruction of six additional wind instruments.
Read moreStrange Offerings to the Dead Found in a Parisian NecropolisBut the adventure doesn’t stop there. Last November, Laurent Davin visited the Nantes Veterinary School’s Laboratory of Comparative Anatomy to identify the nature of these bones. “They turned out to be moorhens, which are close to our ducks today. I wanted to know what sound was coming from it,” he continues. He begins to make a flute by working with flint cut from a bird’s carcass, like prehistoric people. Helped us get a wind instrument similar to the one I identified. »
Just blow it by then. As he does so, a strange sound similar to the chirping of birds emerges. To test the hypothesis that it was found among Papua New Guineans or some Amerindian people, he would have to carry out new investigations. “To do this, I consulted the Natural History Museum’s very rich database and compared the noise to find out if it corresponded to a known species”, notes the archaeologist.
Read moreWhile playing divers (amateur) archaeologists in IsraelBut the sound is too loud for a moorhen’s cry. After dozens of tests, Laurent discovered that Dave’s acoustics resembled those of the Falcons. “Spectral analysis agreed perfectly,” says the researcher. It is important to understand why prehistoric humans sought to imitate the sound of this bird of prey. Drive him away? Not sure. “We found some hawk bones at the site. This bird was obviously not part of the Nutufian diet,” analyzes Laurent Davin. The archeologist-anthropologist notes that the raptor has above all a symbolic role in this culture. “Their stems are used as decorative ornaments,” he says. As evidenced by prehistoric rock carvings and clay bird figurines found nearby.
Did prehistoric man domesticate falcons?
What if this call was used to tame birds of prey? Here we are in the presence of ancient traces of hawks. Although attractive, this hypothesis remains unresolved. We can also assume that this flute was used for hunting by scaring other creatures. Another possibility might be tools unrelated to hunting. “Many ethnic groups incorporate the sounds of nature into their music,” said Laurent Davin, who will spend two years at the Israel Academy of Sciences. However, archaeologists will look at bird bones differently when they excavate the area.
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