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The Earliest Instrument

Ritual Power and Fertility Magic of the Flute in Upper Paleolithic Culture

July 1, 2015

208 pp.

94 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1576472217

Paperback 6X9 $68.00

Purchase on Boydell & Brewer

Description

This book investigates the earliest known musical instruments within the larger cultural context. Upper Paleolithic flutes are the oldest musical instruments that have survived in the archeological record. The significance of this study lies in the synthesis of various methodologies and sources of evidence to gain an understanding of the place of the instruments in Upper Paleolithic culture. It is a comprehensive investigation of the artifacts and their ritual and social functions.

Upper Paleolithic flutes have been discovered at archeological sites dating from approximately 43,000 to 12,000 years ago. Although humans were most likely creating music prior to this time, the people who entered Europe approximately 43,000 years ago began to create musical instruments that have survived to the present day. Analysis of the artifacts is followed by examination of the archeological contexts, parietal and mobiliary art as it relates to sonic expression, ethnographic examples, and the instrument as it appears in various mythological systems around the world.

These instruments were powerful symbols essential to the expression of the most fundamental aspects of life and death. They were symbols of life and thus intrinsically linked to human fertility as well as the fecundity of plants and animals. The flutes were associated with the cycle of life and death and marked important points in this cycle. This investigation provides a new level of insight into the function of music in human culture.

Authors

Reviews

August 24, 2015

Academician Lana Neal, in preparation for this seminal study, conducted research and fieldwork at the Museum of Archeology Nationale in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the archaeological site of Isturitz in southern France, and the British Library. The result is a model of original and seminal scholarship, it should be noted that this exceptional study is enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations, a Select Bibliography, and a comprehensive Index. The Earliest Instrument: Ritual Power and Fertility Magic of the Flute in Upper Paleolithic Culture is an extraordinary study and a critically essential addition to academic library Paleolithic Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists..

Julie Summers
The Midwest Book Review



July 25, 2015

The Earliest Instrument: Ritual Power and Fertility Magic of the Flute in Upper Paleolithic Culture by Lana Neal (Pendragon Press) The Earliest Instrument, written by musicologist Lana Neal and based on fieldwork at an archaeological site, investigates the earliest known musical instruments within the larger cultural context. Neal has taught music at the University of Texas at Austin and Franklin College in Switzerland, and mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas State University, Austin Community College, and Franklin College, Switzerland. In preparation for The Earliest Instrument, Neal conducted research and fieldwork at the Musee d'Archeologie Nationale in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the archaeological site of Isturitz in southern France, and the British Library. Upper Paleolithic flutes are the oldest musical instruments that have survived in the archeologicalrecord. The\ significance of this study lies in the synthesis of various methodologies and sources of evidence to gain an understanding of the place of the instruments in Upper Paleolithic culture. It is a thorough investigation of the artifacts and their ritual and social functions. Flutes crafted from the wing bones of birds and woolly mammoth tusk ivory are the earliest known musical instruments. Although there is evidence of human creativity and symbolic thinking approximately 90,000 years ago, the first evidence of musical activity is found in Upper Paleolithic flutes that are 42,000 to 43,000 years old. Upper Paleolithic flutes have been discovered at archeological sites dating from approximately 43,000 to 12,000 years ago. Although humans were most likely creating music prior to this time, the people who entered Europe approximately 43,000 years ago began to create musical instruments that have survived to the present day. In The Earliest Instrument, analysis of the artifacts is followed by examination of the archeological contexts, parietal and mobiliary art as it relates to sonic expression, ethnographic examples, and the instrument as it appears in various mythological systems around the world. The Earliest Instrument is a comprehensive exploration of these instruments and their multiple and intertwined functions. The instruments were powerful signifiers imbued with tremendous powers. These instruments were powerful symbols essential to the expression of the most fundamental aspects of human life. They were symbols of life and thus intrinsically linked to human fertility as wll as the fecundity of plants and- animals. The flutes were associated with the cycle of life and death and marked important points in this cycle. They appear to have been imbued with the power to bestow life itself. Both the artifacts and their sounds were indispensable facets of Upper Paleolithic culture. The Earliest Instrument provides a new level of insight into the function of music in human culture. This comprehensive exploration of the role of these instruments significantly contributes to a broader understanding of the universal functions of music throughout various phases of human evolution and in the multitude of human cultures.

Savannah Jones
SirReadaLot

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