40,000 Year Old Instrument Thought to Be World's Oldest

Researchers have stated they have evidence to suggest that an artifact recovered from a cave in southern Germany could be the oldest known musical instrument.

During a joint endeavor, researchers from England's Oxford University and Germany's University of Tubingen recovered what is believed to be the oldest musical instrument ever found.

The instruments, thought to be a collection of flutes, are said to be made from the ivory tusks of mammoths as well as bird bones. Through a dating process known as radiocarbon dating, researchers estimate that the instruments are around 40,000 years old.

The area in southern Germany known to locals as the Swabian Jura area is "widely believed to have been occupied by some of first modern humans to arrive in Europe," according to Oxford professor Ted Higham.

The academic paper, which highlighted the findings, also explained the method used to determine how old the artifacts were, was published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

Higham stated in the paper that his team used an "improved ultrafiltration method designed to remove contamination from the collagen preserved in the bones."

With the proximate age of the artifacts researchers were able to determine that it was likely created by the Aurignacian. This was a "culture linked with early modern humans and dating to the Upper Paleolithic period" which dates back between 42,000 and 43,000 years.

The cave where the instruments were found led researchers to state that the site is the oldest known and was the "earliest for the Aurignacian and predates equivalent sites from Italy, France, England and other regions," Higham explained.

"These results are consistent with a hypothesis we made several years ago that the Danube River was a key corridor for the movement of humans and technological innovations into central Europe between 40,000-45,000 years ago," according to Nick Conard, one of the researchers involved with the excavation.