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Ancient bone flutes suggest 9,000-year-old music tradition in China

Nov. 4, 2013 at 3:43 PM   |   Comments

ZHENGZHOU, China, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Three flutes made from bird bones found in an tomb in central China are evidence remote ancestors played music long before they could write, archaeologists say.

Made of bones of red-crowned cranes, the flutes were excavated at an ancient tomb in Henan province, China's state run Xinhua news agency reported.

Although rough and simple, the flutes prove the Chinese were playing music as long as 9,000 years ago, experts said.

The narrow brown pipes, around 8 inches long with patterns carved on their surface, are believed to be the oldest heptatonic, or multinote scale, musical instruments ever discovered.

The archaeological site at Jiahu, dated to the Neolithic Age around 7,500 to 9,000 years ago, has been excavated eight times since 1983 and hundreds of caves, pottery kilns, building remains, tombs and coffins have been found, researchers said.

"People who created Jiahu culture were not only hunters, fishermen and craftsmen, but also early farmers and brilliant artists," research leader Zhang Juzhong said.

"Jiahu culture existed at the same time as civilization in Tigris and Euphrates was flourishing and served as a miniature of the development of East Asia at that time," Zhang said.

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