What is the oldest musical instrument?

It is possible that the first musical instrument was the human voice itself, which can make a vast array of sounds, from singing, humming and whistling through to clicking, coughing and yawning. The oldest known Neanderthal hyoid bone with the modern human form has been dated to be 60,000 years old, pre-dating the oldest known bone flute by approx. 20,000 years; but since both artefacts are unique the true chronology may date back much further.

Bone Flute

Most likely the first rhythm instruments or percussion instruments involved the clapping of hands, stones hit together, or other things that are useful to create rhythm and indeed there are examples of musical instruments which date back as far as the paleolithic, although there is some ambiguity over archaeological finds which can be variously interpreted as either musical or non-musical instruments/tools.

Music can be theoretically traced to prior to the Oldowan era of the Paleolithic age, the anthropological and archeological designation suggests that music first arose (amongst humans) when stone tools first began to be used by hominids. The noises produced by work such as pounding seed and roots into meal is a likely source of rhythm created by early humans.

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