Whoa! Researchers at Oxford have used radiocarbon dating to determine that a flute made of mammoth ivory is over 40,000 years old. More from the Oxford site:
In a paper published in the Journal of Human Evolution, the researchers describe the new dating results for animal bones, excavated in the same archaeological layers as the instruments and early art, at Geißenklösterle Cave in the Swabian Jura of southern Germany. The animal bones bear cuts and marks from human hunting and eating.
The new dates were obtained by Professor Tom Higham and his team at Oxford University, using an improved ultrafiltration method designed to remove contamination from the collagen preserved in the bones. The researchers show that the Aurignacian, a culture linked with early modern humans and dating to the Upper Paleolithic period, began at the site between 42,000 and 43,000 years ago.
The idea of humans making music 40+ millennia ago is inspiring and profound — making art is in our nature.