February 25, 2021

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Earliest known conch shell horn plays its tune for the first time in 17,000 years

For the very first time in far more than 17,000 yrs, a few mellifluous musical notes – shut in tone to C, D, and C sharp – have reverberated from a conch shell modified to provide as a wind instrument. The specimen, archaeologists have now identified, is the earliest conch shell horn nonetheless recognized, and stands out as a distinctive obtain between European Upper Paleolithic artifacts. Very first found in 1931 in the cave of Marsoulas, nestled in the foothills of the French Pyrenees, the discoverers to begin with suspected the shell served as a ceremonial consuming cup, and noted no discernable modifications by human hands. But soon after hunting at the shell with clean eyes – and superior imaging tactics – Carole Fritz and colleagues identified that the Magdalenian occupants of Marsoulas cave experienced carefully modified the shell to install a mouthpiece. These historical craftspeople also eliminated the outermost edges of the shell’s labrum, the flared ridge that extends outward from the shell’s primary opening, and adorned the exterior of the shell with ochre-crimson pigment types that match the design and style of wall artwork found inside Marsoulas cave. Prior do the job has documented the existence of flutes and whistles produced of bone in Upper Paleolithic archaeological web sites. But devices manufactured of other resources these kinds of as this shell, which as soon as belonged to a huge sea snail of the species Charonia lampas, are abnormal. Working with photogrammetry approaches to emphasize exterior modifications not commonly viewed with the naked eye, Fritz et al. painstakingly characterized the traces of human intervention. They observed the fingerprint-shaped, pale ochre markings, impression details together the modified labrum, and signs that the shell’s apex had been meticulously and intentionally eliminated to generate a next opening. They also pointed out traces of a brown natural material, likely a resin or wax, around the apex opening that may have been used as an adhesive to affix a mouthpiece. They then utilized CT scans to visualize the shell’s inside, obtaining that two more holes experienced been chipped absent in the spiral levels right beneath the shell’s apex, most likely to accommodate the mouthpiece’s very long tube extension. Fritz et al. then enlisted the assistance of a musicologist who specializes in wind instruments, who was capable to reproduce the sound of the horn in three unique notes that nearly matched the tones of C, D, and C sharp in modern day musical nomenclature. “Around the entire world, conch shells have served as musical instruments, contacting or signaling units, and sacred or magic objects depending on the cultures,” the authors publish. “To our information, the Marsoulas shell is special in the prehistoric context, even so, not only in France but at the scale of Paleolithic Europe and most likely the entire world.”&#13

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