Home SCIENCE Historic seashell resonates after 18,000 years

Historic seashell resonates after 18,000 years

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Virtually 80 years after its discovery, a big shell from the ornate Marsoulas Cave within the Pyrenees has been studied by a multidisciplinary crew from the CNRS, the Muséum de Toulouse, the Université Toulouse — Jean Jaurès and the Musée du quai Branly — Jacques-Chirac (1): it’s believed to be the oldest wind instrument of its sort. Scientists reveal the way it sounds in a research revealed within the journal Science Advances on tenth February 2021.

The Marsoulas Cave, between Haute-Garonne and Ariège, was the primary embellished cave to be discovered within the Pyrenees. Found in 1897, the cave bears witness to the start of the Magdalenian (2) tradition on this area, on the finish of the Final Glacial Most. Throughout a listing of the fabric from the archaeological excavations, most of which is saved within the Muséum de Toulouse, scientists examined a big Charonia lampas (sea snail) shell, which had been largely missed when found in 1931.

The tip of the shell is damaged, forming a 3.5 cm diameter opening. As that is the toughest a part of the shell, the break is clearly not unintended. On the reverse finish, the shell opening exhibits traces of retouching (chopping) and a tomography scan has revealed that one of many first coils is perforated. Lastly, the shell has been embellished with a purple pigment (hematite), attribute of the Marsoulas Cave, which signifies its standing as a symbolic object.

To verify the speculation that this conch was used to provide sounds, scientists enlisted the assistance of a horn participant, who managed to provide three sounds near the notes C, C-sharp and D. Because the opening was irregular and coated with an natural coating (3), the researchers assume {that a} mouthpiece was additionally connected, as is the case for newer conches in assortment of the Musée du quai Branly — Jacques Chirac. 3D impressions of the conch will allow this result in be explored and confirm whether or not it may be used to provide different notes.

The primary carbon-14 courting of the cave, carried out on a chunk of charcoal and a fraction of bear bone from the identical archaeological degree because the shell, offered a date of round 18,000 years. This makes the Marsoulas conch the oldest wind instrument of its sort: to this point, solely flutes have been found in earlier European Higher Palaeolithic contexts; the conches discovered exterior Europe are rather more latest.

Along with immersing us within the sounds produced by our Magdalenian ancestors, this shell reinforces the concept of exchanges between the Pyrenees and the Atlantic coast, greater than 200 kilometres away.

Additional info:

– Hearken to the sound of the Marsoulas conch: https://soundcloud.com/cnrs_officiel/marsoulas-shell-conch-sound/s-234KE5bFZO1

– See the 3D mannequin: https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/triton-700k-0bddff3405144c7b8f91f902e28bcc9b

Notes

(1) The laboratories concerned are the Travaux et recherches archéologiques sur les cultures, les espaces et les sociétés (CNRS/Université Toulouse — Jean Jaurès/Ministère de la Tradition), the Maison des sciences de l’homme et de la société de Toulouse (CNRS/Université Fédérale de Toulouse) and the Laboratoire d’archéologie moléculaire et structurale (CNRS/Sorbonne Université).

(2) Masking a interval between round 21,000 and 14,000 years BP, it’s characterised by labored animal bones and antlers and in depth alternate networks. The Altamira and Lascaux caves are essentially the most well-known examples.

(3) As the amount is restricted, analyses haven’t been in a position to determine its nature.

Story Supply:

Materials offered by CNRS. Notice: Content material could also be edited for type and size.

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