Virtually 80 several years following its discovery, a significant shell from the ornate Marsoulas Cave in the Pyrenees has been examined by a multidisciplinary crew from the CNRS, the Muséum de Toulouse, the Université Toulouse — Jean Jaurès and the Musée du quai Branly — Jacques-Chirac (1): it is thought to be the oldest wind instrument of its form. Researchers expose how it appears in a examine published in the journal Science Advancements on 10th February 2021.
The Marsoulas Cave, involving Haute-Garonne and Ariège, was the initial adorned cave to be located in the Pyrenees. Uncovered in 1897, the cave bears witness to the commencing of the Magdalenian (2) lifestyle in this location, at the finish of the Previous Glacial Most. Through an stock of the material from the archaeological excavations, most of which is stored in the Muséum de Toulouse, scientists examined a substantial Charonia lampas (sea snail) shell, which had been largely overlooked when discovered in 1931.
The suggestion of the shell is broken, forming a 3.5 cm diameter opening. As this is the hardest part of the shell, the crack is evidently not accidental. At the opposite end, the shell opening exhibits traces of retouching (cutting) and a tomography scan has discovered that a single of the to start with coils is perforated. Ultimately, the shell has been embellished with a crimson pigment (hematite), attribute of the Marsoulas Cave, which suggests its status as a symbolic object.
To ensure the hypothesis that this conch was applied to produce seems, researchers enlisted the enable of a horn participant, who managed to make 3 appears shut to the notes C, C-sharp and D. As the opening was irregular and covered with an natural coating (3), the scientists assume that a mouthpiece was also connected, as is the circumstance for extra new conches in assortment of the Musée du quai Branly — Jacques Chirac. 3D impressions of the conch will enable this guide to be explored and validate whether or not it can be utilised to develop other notes.
The initial carbon-14 dating of the cave, carried out on a piece of charcoal and a fragment of bear bone from the similar archaeological amount as the shell, supplied a day of all-around 18,000 decades. This tends to make the Marsoulas conch the oldest wind instrument of its form: to day, only flutes have been uncovered in previously European Higher Palaeolithic contexts the conches observed outside the house Europe are considerably more recent.
In addition to immersing us in the sounds made by our Magdalenian ancestors, this shell reinforces the plan of exchanges between the Pyrenees and the Atlantic coastline, additional than 200 kilometres absent.
(1) The laboratories involved are the Travaux et recherches archéologiques sur les cultures, les espaces et les sociétés (CNRS/Université Toulouse — Jean Jaurès/Ministère de la Tradition), the Maison des sciences de l’homme et de la société de Toulouse (CNRS/Université Fédérale de Toulouse) and the Laboratoire d’archéologie moléculaire et structurale (CNRS/Sorbonne Université).
(2) Masking a interval involving all over 21,000 and 14,000 decades BP, it is characterised by labored animal bones and antlers and substantial exchange networks. The Altamira and Lascaux caves are the most well known illustrations.
(3) As the amount is constrained, analyses have not been capable to establish its nature.
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