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12 April 2015
Are Neanderthal bone flutes the work of Ice Age hyenas?

A study published in Royal Society Open Science says the so-called 'Neanderthal bone flutes', often said to be the oldest musical instruments, are simply the bones of cave bear cubs left by Ice Age scavengers.
     Cajus G Diedrich, the paper's author, suggests the artefacts were misidentified when they were first discovered in the 1920s.
     Discovered in cave systems in Eastern Europe, the cave bear bones appear to have aligned holes, which some past researchers associated with a diatonic musical scale. Other researchers doubted the human origin of the markings.
     Dr Diedrich analysed bone material from a large bear den in Weisse Kuhle Cave. Puncture marks are only present on the bones of cubs, which are more likely to puncture than break under pressure, and holes on the 19 thigh bones tested were predominantly on the thinner side of the bone.
     The author says the oval-shaped holes match the marks a crushing premolar hyena tooth would leave. No signs of drill marks or stone tool marks were found on the margins of the holes, and reconstruction of a drilling process failed to replicate the ancient marks.
     Diedrich attributes the bones to the Late Stone Age, after the Neanderthal had died out.

Edited from Phys.org (9 April 2015)

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