Artículo - Discovery, Experiments, Reconstruction

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  • 8/12/2019 Artculo - Discovery, Experiments, Reconstruction



    1973 und 1990 wurden bei archologischen Aus-

    grabungen in der Geienklsterle-Hhle in Sd-westdeutschland Reste bearbeiteter Vogelknochengefunden, die nach ihrer Zusammensetzung alsFlten erkannt wurden. Die Funde stammen ausder Schicht des Klassischen Aurignacien undwurden auf ein Alter von ca. 35.000 Jahren vorheute datiert. Weil die Flten nur unvollstndigerhalten sind, wurden sie mehrfach experimentellrekonstruiert, um Herstellungstechnik, Tonfolgeund Spielbarkeit nachvollziehen zu knnen. DieVersuche ergaben, dass es mglich ist, solche klei-nen Knochenflten ohne spezielles Mundstck ent-

    weder als Schrgflte oder sogar ber die Griff-lcher selbst (da diese nicht gebohrt, sonderngeschabt wurden und wie ein Aufschnitt funktio-nieren knnen) zu spielen. Die Tne sind klar unddeutlich hrbar, ihre Anordnung scheint sich aneiner gewissen Tonordnung zu orientieren. DieserFund eines der ltesten Musikinstrumente der Weltunterstreicht zusammen mit anderen spekta-kulren Entdeckungen aus demselben Gebiet dieBedeutung des oberen Donau-Raumes fr die Ent-wicklung des Jungpalolithikums in Mitteleuropa.



    One of the oldest flutes known today was found inthe Geienklsterle cave (Fig. 1, Fig. 2) in theSwabian Alb in Southwestern Germany.1 The findcomes from the Classic Aurignacian layer (type

    fossil: points with double winged base), which wasdated by 14C-accelerator method (AMS)2 to ca.33,500 BP and with thermoluminescence (TL) to

    ca. 37,000 BP.3 Excavations at Geissenklsterlestarted in 1973 with a sondage conducted by Eber-hard Wagner (Landesdenkmalamt) and were con-

    tinued from 1974 until 1991 by Joachim Hahn(Fig. 3) (University of Tbingen).4

    The site has provided a stratigraphic sequencefrom at least 43,000 up to 10,000 BP (Tab. 1). Thedeepest known layer contains finds from the Mid-dle Palaeolithic, usually associated with Nean-derthal man. Above lies an Early Aurignacianlayer (14C AMS date ca. 38,400 BP and ElectronSpin Resonance [ESR] date ca. 40,200 BP), fol-lowed by the Classic Aurignacian with a largearea of bone ash which provided four carved ivoryfigurines depicting human, mammoth, (cave)bear

    and bison, a limestone pebble painted in threecolours, as well as ivory beads, perforated anddyed fish vertebrae and ornamented objects ofantler and ivory.5 The art objects from the Auri-gnacian of the Geienklsterle are from the sameperiod as the famous finds of mobile art fromcaves in Southwestern Germany such as the ivoryfigurine of a horse from the Vogelherd and thehuman figurine with the head of a lion from theHohlenstein-Stadel in the Lone Valley (Fig 4).6 Atthe beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic, modernman, Homo sapiens sapiens appears in MiddleEurope, and at this time the origins of art and

    music are clearly taking shape.The horizon lying above contains a Gravettian

    occupation in several living floors (14C AMS dateca. 29,000 BP), while there is only one fireplacepreserved from the Magdalenian in the Geien-klsterle (14C AMS date ca. 13,000 BP). After the

    1 Hahn/Mnzel 1995.2 Richter et al. 2000.3 AMS = Accelerator Mass Spectrometer, TL = Thermolumi-

    nescence Method, BP = Before Present (1950).4 Hahn 1988.5 Hahn 1988.6 Hahn 1986.

    The Geienklsterle Flute Discovery, Experiments, Reconstruction

    Susanne Mnzel/Friedrich Seeberger/Wulf Hein

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    Gravettian occupation, sterile layers suggest a pos-sible hiatus in the occupation of SouthwesternGermany probably caused by the Last GlacialMaximum.

    In the faunal assemblage cave bear whichhibernated in the Geienklsterle cave is the pre-dominant species in the entire sequence. Geis-senklsterle provided a wide and diverse faunalspectrum, and the layers before the glacial maxi-mum around 20,000 BP can be classified as aMammoth Steppe Environment. In addition tospecies of the arctic tundra like reindeer, arctic foxand arctic hare, the grass steppe environment isrepresented by mammoth, wild horse and woollyrhino. Red deer is associated with reindeer similarto parts of Scandinavia today. Mountainous ele-ments like ibex, chamois and marmot are also pre-sent in the Swabian Alb. Carnivores are not very

    characteristic for specific biotopes, but they sur-vive as long as prey is present. The presence of alarge number of carnivore species also reflects adiverse and broad variety of prey species.

    Regarding the seasonal occupation of the Geis-senklsterle which can be evaluated by determi-nating the age of the young prey animals, thepalaeolithic hunter-gatherers occupied the caveduring the winter season, as shown by the age of ahunted foal and by fetal bones of horse, and in thespring, as shown by the remains of hunted mam-moth calves.

    The Ach Valley must have been attractive dur-ing the winter because of wild horse spending thistime of the year in the protected Swabian Alb val-leys, and in spring for the mammoth herds havingtheir calving ground nearby.

    The evaluation of the fauna within the scope ofa project of the Deutsche Forschungsgemein-schaft (DFG) was recently finished by theauthor.7 During the process of faunal analysis,broken bird bones were found in a sample of watersieved sediments from the excavation. These frag-ments showed holes, cut marks and striations.After refitting the pieces, one sample came out as a

    flute with at least three holes (Fig. 5a,c). The firststep of the production of the flute was smoothingthe surface of the bone with a flint tool.8 Then theproximal end of the bone was cut off by a circulargroove, while the other end unfortunatelyremained incomplete, even after carefully search-ing through the surrounding finds recovered bycollecting and wet sieving. A few additional frag-ments with notches and a partial hole from thefirst excavation (1973) were recognized as belong-ing to another flute (Fig. 5b).

    The so-called flute 1 is made out of a swans

    radius, probably a Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus,determination by P. Krnneck).9 The flute is theonly indication of Whooper Swan in the bird

    remains of the Geienklsterle. This probablymeans that the flute was not manufactured in thecave but was brought in as a finished product.

    The maximum preserved length of flute 1 is126.5 mm, the possible length compared to thetotal length of a swans radius could have been180 to 200 mm. The asymmetrical diameter of theflute is 10.3 x 9.1 mm.



    Experiments in playing were carried out withreplications (Fig. 6) of the Geienklsterle flute1.10 The source material was radius bones from

    Mute Swan (Cygnus olor). Flint tools were usedfor the removal of the joint ends and for cuttingthe holes. The replications have a length of150 mm, and are blown from the end which is bro-ken on the original as a bevelled flute.

    The bevelled flute is considered the precursorof the transverse flute. It is very well knowntoday in the Mediterranian as Flte oblique, Flo-jra, Fujara or Awada. Very old bevelled flutesare exhibited for example at the Cairo Museumand the Kantonal Museum in Lausanne.11 A bev-elled flute is blown in an inclined downward

    position, as if one wants to whistle (way of play-ing, s. Fig. 7).On replications of the Geienklsterle flute 1

    the tones c3, d3, f3, b3 and c4, d4, f4 can be playedby this way of blowing at it. The tones sound loudand clear (c.f. our CD). The pitch and the timbredo not change when the holes are transferred fromthe concave side to the convex side of the bone.The replications are playable to a minimal insidediameter of the bone tube down to 4.3 mm. Bevel-ling the edge of the blown-at end of the bone willimprove the playability, although there is no realneed for bevelling.

    The replication of a flute from the Isturitz cave,having a straight edge, could be blown instantlythat way.12

    7 Mnzel 1994; Mnzel 1997; Mnzel 1999.8 For use and handling of flint tools to make flutes see Ein-

    wgerer and Kfer, this volume.9 Unpublished manuscript concerning the bird fauna at the

    Geienklsterle.10 Seeberger 1998; Seeberger 1999.11 Meylan 1992.12 Replica by G. Lawson, Cambridge.


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    The bevelled flute is easier to manufacture thanany other kind of flute. This fact and its nice, flexi-ble sound are reasons for its popularity withherdsmen and nomads. Its use can be traced back5,000 years.

    The pitch of the tones is influenced by theposition of the lips and the tongue and the wholetonal scale is only possible if one finds the positionsuitable for it. Therefore, already at a very earlytime, possibilities were sought for to producetones more easily. Examples may be the pan flute,the vessel flute, the bevelled flute, the recorder andthe transverse flute.

    For generating tones with a high pitch, a tube issuitable with a narrow diameter like the Geis-senklsterle flute. Such a tiny instrument can be

    played best as a bevelled flute. The flute from theGeienklsterle, being the oldest flute found,stands at the beginning of the development offlutes. It is very likely that it was blown as a bev-elled flute without any mouthpiece. The inventionof the bevelled flute might be associated with theperception of tones caused by the wind onunworked bone tubes.

    While discussing how the mouthpiece of palaeo-lithic bird bones with fingerholes could havelooked, it was speculated that they might havebeen reed instruments. Simple reed instruments

    are built by a cut behind the valve of a reed(Fig. 8). This way a lamella is produced whichswings and creates a sound if this end is taken intothe mouth and blown. This technical complicatedtype of instrument must have been created inde-pendantly of the development of the flute.



    Because the original of flute 1 was only fragmen-tarily preserved, an experimental reconstructionwas necessary to understand the technique of pro-duction and to learn about function and sequenceof notes and playability, a procedure that was rec-ognized as being important for the archaeology ofmusic several years ago.13 Some of the experimentswere carried out by the excavator J. Hahn and by

    one of the authors (W.H.),14

    which showed thatthe reconstruction can be played without any spe-cial mouthpiece by simply blowing into one end as

    into a blowpipe (Fig. 9).15 The tones are generatedat the fingerholes themselves, because these holesare not drilled in vertically, but cut or scraped inhorizontally, so that the sharp edges of the finger-holes work like an aperture. With this way of play-ing, the following frequencies are at the playersdisposal (given in Hz with lower and upper limits,because the tones can be changed up to 100 centdepending on the blowing pressure): a3 ~ 1760,b3 ~ 19802090, c4 ~ 20902220, e4 ~ 26402790,f4 ~ 2790. The tones sound relatively clear, but notvery loud. Whether the original produced thesame tones cannot be solved, because its fragmen-tary preservation status does not reveal the origi-nal length or the existence of further holes.Although it is possible to generate tones by thefingerholes, this method should not be generallypredicted for all palaeolithic bone flutes. Using it

    as a bevelled flute, as F. Seeberger suggests, may bemore plausible. It is conceivable that the Geis-senklsterle flute had predecessors made of reed,no matter how they looked, which perhaps werealso played as bevelled flutes.

    Looking however at the tones generated by thereplica, they do not sound aimless or accidential,but seem to be oriented in a certain tonal order, afact that was also observed by the researchers ofthe bone flutes from the Early Neolithic site Jiahuin Henan Province/China.16 Here also the coun-terargument does not take effect, that there cannot

    be made any statement about the real tones,because replications, however carefully they aremade, never correspond to the original. TheseChinese flutes are completely preserved and obvi-ously as playable as they were more than 8,000years ago. The tones of the Geienklsterle fluteseem to be in systematic distances to each other,and allow the presumption that they did not comeabout accidentally by piercing the bone at random,but are in intentional proportion similar to whatwe are accustomed to hear, even if the tones exper-imentally generated can be changed by the blow-ing pressure.

    The common point of view that the notches cutin the flute could have functioned in addition as awashboard instrument to produce rhythmicsounds is not shared by the authors. On one handthe instrument is too tiny to play on and scrape atthe same time. On the other hand the notches are

    13 Schneider 1973.14 Hahn/Hein 1995; Hein/Hahn 1998; Hein 1998.15 The Geienklsterle flute can be held and played in differ-

    ent ways (see Fig. 7 and 9). The difference of the resultsreferring to the sound are still to be examined, the tonaldifferences are the same.

    16 Zhang et al. 1999; see also their contribution to this vol-ume.

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    not deep enough to produce sounds and there areno traces of use-wear. In all probability the notch-es were carved for ornamental reasons, a usualtechnique observed on many objects from theAurignacian. It would be interesting to examinefurther the notches microscopically in order tofind out whether they were carved with one orseveral different tools, a method used by F. dErri-co to examine the flute finds from the Isturitzcave.17 Such an examination, particularly consider-ing comparative traces already experimentally pro-duced in Bordeaux and Cambridge, might add atemporal dimension to the find, if it could be veri-fied, that the notches were carved one after theother with different tools. An international andinterdisciplinary research project might open up arare opportunity in archaeology to catch a glimpseof the spiritual superstructure of the Upper

    Palaeolithic beyond the horizon of the materialgoods of our ancestors. It would provide a look atthe immaterial world of a period currently ofinterest to both science and the media because of

    the replacement of the Neanderthal man by themodern Homo sapiens sapiens.

    This flute find, together with the recently dis-covered painted stone18 and the horse head madeof ivory19 from the Hohle Fels, a cave situatednearby in the Ach Valley, emphasizes the role ofthe Upper Danube Area in the Central EuropeanUpper Palaeolithic.


    We dedicate this paper to the excavator of theGeienklsterle flute, Prof. Joachim Hahn, whodied in April 1997 much too early and who couldnot finish his work in the Ach Valley.

    17 Oral communication dErrico/Lawson; see also their con-tribution to this volume.

    18 Conard/Floss 1999.19 Conard/Floss 2000.


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    CONARD, N. J./FLOSS, H. 1999Ein bemalter Stein vom Hohle Fels bei Schelk-lingen und die Frage nach palolithischer Hh-lenkunst in Mitteleuropa. ArchologischesKorrespondenzblatt 29, 307316.

    CONARD, N. J./FLOSS, H. 2000Eine Elfenbeinplastik vom Hohle Fels beiSchelklingen und ihre Bedeutung fr dieEntwicklung des Jungpalolithikums in Sd-westdeutschland. Archologisches Korrespon-denzblatt 30, 473480.

    HAHN, J. 1986Kraft und Aggression. Die Botschaft derEiszeitkunst im Aurignacien Sddeutschlands?Archaeologica Venatoria 7, Tbingen.

    HAHN, J. 1988

    Die Geienklsterle-Hhle im Achtal beiBlaubeuren I. Forschungen und Berichte zurVor- und Frhgeschichte in Baden-Wrttem-berg 26, Stuttgart.

    HAHN, J./HEIN, W. 1995Eiszeitorchester Experimentelle Nachbildungvon Knochenflten aus der Jngeren Alt-steinzeit. In: A. Scheer (Hrsg.), Eiszeitwerk-statt Experimentelle Archologie. Muse-umsheft 2, 1623, Blaubeuren.

    HAHN, J./MNZEL, S. 1995Knochenflten aus dem Aurignacien des

    Geienklsterle bei Blaubeuren, Alb-Donau-Kreis. Fundberichte aus Baden-Wrttemberg20, 112.

    HEIN, W. 1998Zur Rekonstruktion und Funktion jung-palolithischer Knochenflten. Musica instru-mentalis 1, 120128.

    HEIN, W./HAHN, J. 1998Experimentelle Nachbildung von Knochen-flten aus dem Aurignacien der Geienklster-le-Hhle. In: M. Fansa (Hrsg.), ExperimentelleArchologie in Deutschland, Bilanz 1997.Archologische Mitteilungen aus Nordwest-

    deutschland, Beiheft 19, 6573.MEYLAN, R. 1992

    Permanence de la Flte oblique autour de laMditerane. In: M. Otte (Hrsg.), Sons Orig-

    inels, Prhistoire de la musique. Actes du Col-loque du Musicologie 11 12 13 , Eraul 61,135151.

    MNZEL, S. 1994Die Grosugerfauna des Geienklsterle an-hand der Zahnfunde. In: S. Mnzel/Ph. Morel/J. Hahn, Jungpleistozne Tierreste aus derGeienklsterle-Hhle bei Blaubeuren. Fund-berichte aus Baden-Wrttemberg 19/1, 6393.

    MNZEL, S. 1997Seasonal Activities of Human and Non-humanInhabitants of the Geienklsterle Cave nearBlaubeuren, Alb-Danube District. Anthropo-zoologica 25/26, 355361.

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    DFG-Abschlubericht zur Grosugerfaunaaus dem Geienklsterle. Manuskript, Univer-sitt Tbingen.


    Thermoluminescence, Electron Spin Reso-nance and 14C-dating of the Late Middle andEarly Upper Palaeolithic Site of Geienklster-le Cave, Southern Germany. Journal of Ar-chaeological Science 27, 7189.

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    Erforschung der Ur- und Frhgeschichte derMusik. Festschrift 400 Jahre Kurfrst-Salentin-Gymnasium Andernach, 5163.

    SEEBERGER, F. 1998Zur Spielweise palolithischer Knochenflten.Archologisches Korrespondenzblatt 28/1,3133.

    SEEBERGER, F. 1999Sind jungpalolithische Knochenflten Vor-lufer mediterraner Hirtenflten? Archo-logisches Korrespondenzblatt 29/2, 155157.


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    Fig. 2 Abri/cave Geienklsterle.


    Fig. 1 Bruckfelsen with Geienklsterle (right).

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    Fig. 3 Excavation of the cave directed by Joachim Hahn, 1975.

    Fig. 4 Map with Geienklsterle location and other caves. 1 Bocksteinhhle/Bockstein-Trle, 2 Brillenhhle,3 Hoher Fels, 4 Hohlenstein Stadel/Hohlenstein-Brenhhle, 5 Geienklsterle, 6 Gpfelsteinhhle, 7 Korb Kleinheppach,

    8 Nikolaushhle, 9 Groe Ofnet/Kleine Ofnet, 10 Schafstall, 11 Sirgenstein, 12 Vogelherd.

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    Fig. 5 b Fragments of flute 2. Photograph: Hilde Jensen.

    Fig. 5 c Flute 1 from Geienklsterle completed with wax. Photograph: Hilde Jensen.

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    Fig. 6 Replication of the Geienklsterle flute 1. Photograph: Frankenstein/Zwietasch(Wrttembergisches Landesmuseum Stuttgart).

    Fig. 7 Playing a replication of the Geienklsterle flute 1 as bevelled flute. Photograph: Frankenstein/Zwietasch.

    Fig. 8 Simple Greek reed instrument made from cane. Photograph: Frankenstein/Zwietasch.


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    Fig. 9 Playing a replication of the Geienklsterle flute 1 over the fingerholes. Photograph: Wulf Hein.

    The Geienklsterle Flute Discovery, Experiments, Reconstruction 117

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