Scientists share sound of 18,000-year-old wind instrument

Feb. 11 (UPI) -- An 18,000-year-old conch shell believed to be the world's oldest instrument of its type was played by a horn player for the first time in thousands of years as part of a study by French scientists.

Researchers from France's National Center for Scientific Research, the Museum of Toulouse, the University of Toulouse and Quai Branly Museum teamed up to study the shell found at the Marsoulas Cave in the Pyrenees mountain range in 1931.


The scientists, who published their study in the journal Science Advances, said the tip of the conch shell is broken in a way that appears intentional to create a 1.4-inch diameter opening. The team said a study of the opening indicates a mouthpiece may have been attached to the instrument at some time in the past.

The scientists said carbon dating performed on charcoal and bear bone from the same cave indicate the shell is likely about 18,000 years old.

The team recruited a horn player who was able to make sounds with the shell resembling the notes C, C-sharp and D.

Gilles Tosello, co-author of the study and an archaeologist at the University of Toulouse, said the team has not yet determined whether the shell was meant to make music or whether the sounds it made were connected to other rituals.


"It could have been used as a communication tool," he told CNN.

Tosello said the scientists are now working on a 3D replica of the shell to learn more about the shell and the sounds it can make.

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