|11 May 2004
4000-year-old wood pipes discovered in Ireland
Archaeologists discovered a set of musical pipes believed to have been used 4,000 years ago by prehistoric man in Ireland, making them the world's oldest wooden instruments. The six wooden pipes, which are not joined, were found during excavations of a housing development site near the coastal town of Greystones, south of Dublin.
"It is an amazing find. They had been preserved because they were in the lower part of the site which was damper," Bernice Molloy, site director for archaeological consultancy firm Margaret Gowen said. Experts have been able to play a series of notes, including E flat, A flat and F natural, on the yew wood pipes.
The pipes were discovered in the bottom of a wood-lined trough. The archaeological team had been excavating a burnt mound believed to have been a cooking site when it came across the trough. A wooden peg used in the construction of the trough has been radio carbon dated to between 2,120 BCE and 2,085 BCE, which falls in the Early Bronze Age period.
Ms Molloy said the hollow pipes, measuring between 30 centimetres and 50 centimetres long are tapered at one end but have no perforations or finger holes. "I have so far been unable to find any older wooden instrument," said Margaret Gowen, who owns the consultancy that made the discovery. "It appears to be 1,000 years older than anything I can find on record, certainly in Europe. "There is a suggestion of an early Chinese composite instrument like pan pipes with a gourd that is the wind chamber going back to about 1500 BCE, but that is an illustration rather than the instrument," she said.
A number of prehistoric musical instruments made from bone, including simple flutes and whistles dating back more than 100,000 years, have already been uncovered in Ireland.
ABC News Online (10 May 2004)
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