The Neanderthal Flute

Photo: Uroš Hočevar

The Neanderthal Flute is the oldest musical instrument in the world, and visitors can see it at the National Museum in Ljubljana.

The world's oldest musical instrument – a 60,000-year-old flute  – is kept in the National Museum of Slovenia . 

This instrument, a treasure of global importance, was found during archaeological digs at the Divje Babe site and is the work of Neanderthal man, who took the femur of a young cave bear and deliberately transformed it into something capable of making sound – in other words it did not come about by chance. The spacing of the holes and the surviving length of the find constitute a system that allows a wide range of sounds and melodic movement. The instrument is designed for a right-handed player. 

The Divje Babe flute  is the only flute found anywhere in the world to have been made by a Neanderthal. It is at least 10,000 years older than other, similar flutes that are the work of anatomically modern humans. It represents fundamental proof that Neanderthals were, just like us, fully developed spiritual beings, capable of refined artistic creativity such as music.

Text by Tanja Glogovčan