Although the prehistoric site of Eynan-Mallaha in northern Israel has been thoroughly examined since 1955, it still holds some surprises for scientists. Seven prehistoric wind instruments known as flutes, recently identified by a Franco-Israeli team, are the subject of an article published on 9 June in Scientific Reports.
The discovery of these 12,000-year-old aerophones is extremely rare—in fact, they are the first to be discovered in the Near East. The “flutes,” made from the bones of a small waterfowl, produce a sound similar to certain birds of prey (Eurasian sparrowhawk and common kestrel) when air is blown into them.
The choice of bones used to make these instruments was no accident—larger birds, with bigger bones that produce deeper sounds, have also been found at the site. The Natufians, the Near Eastern civilization that occupied this village between 13,000 and 9,700 BC, deliberately selected smaller bones in order to obtain the high-pitched sound needed to imitate these particular raptors.
The instruments may have been used for hunting, music or to communicate with the birds themselves. Indeed, it is clear that the Natufians attributed birds with a special symbolic value, as attested by the many ornaments made of talons found at Eynan-Mallaha.
The village, located on the shores of Lake Hula, was home to this civilization throughout its 3,000 years of existence. It is therefore of vital importance in revealing the practices and habits of a culture at the crossroads between mobile and sedentary lifestyles, and the transition from a predatory economy to agriculture.
Excavation of the Eynan-Mallaha site is still ongoing, under the direction of CNRS researcher Fanny Bocquentin and Israel Antiquities Authority researcher Lior Weisbrod.
Laurent Davin et al, Bone aerophones from Eynan-Mallaha (Israel) indicate imitation of raptor calls by the last hunter-gatherers in the Levant, Scientific Reports (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-35700-9
The first prehistoric wind instruments discovered in the Levant (2023, June 9)
retrieved 9 June 2023
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