The Archaeology of Music


Music has been a staple within many cultures from across the world. We see it in traditions and all different forms of media. But where did it all begin? Archaeologists have failed to find any evidence indicating that musical instruments had been around 40,000 years ago. But this may be due to organic materials like bone and wood decaying and breaking down over time. We can also take into account that singing and clapping can not be traced by physical means. 

There is popular debate about the artifact that holds the title of “oldest musical instrument”. Originally back in 1995, archaeologists had discord the bone of a young cave bear with holes carved into it. Speculation led them to believe that this had previously been used as a flute. However, after further research some believe that the holes may not have been man made but created by hyenas’ teeth from scavenging the bear’s remains. 

Artifact that was once thought to be a flute.

Another musical instrument found is a beautiful lyre found in 1957 at the Eastern cemetery of Ambracia which dates back to the Hellenistic period. According to Greek mythology, it was invented by Hermes. When Apollo discovered that Hermes had stolen his oxen he prosecuted him. While Hermes was running to hide he stepped on a turtle shell. He noticed that the shell amplifies sound, so he created the first ever lyre and gifted it to Apollo to appease him. 

A music lyre from Ambracia.

Music and instruments can be found all over the world and throughout history. It is a form of human expression and can be used to communicate and even improve social relationships. Music is one of the few forms of communication that can transcend language. It has greatly developed over the years and has become one of the most enjoyed art forms.


A music lyre from Ambracia


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