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Researchers Find Prehistoric Flutes Used to Imitate Bird Calls

According to a recent study published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, small flutes made from the wing bones of waterfowl were discovered in the Huleh Valley in northern Israel. These ancient flutes, crafted around 12,000 years ago, are believed to have been used for hunting, music, or even communicating with birds. The excavation of the Eynan/Ain Mallaha site, conducted by French and Israeli teams, revealed circular structures that served as homes for hunter-gatherers, as well as the bones of various animal species, including birds.

Dr. Laurent Davin a post-doctoral fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, along with Dr. José-Miguel Tejero at the University of Vienna and the University of Barcelona, Spain, examined bird bones found at the site and noticed tiny holes bored into the hollow wing bones. Replicas of the flutes were made to determine their purpose. When the replica flutes were played and compared to the calls of birds found in the region, they resembled the sounds of birds of prey, such as the Eurasian Sparrowhawk and the Common Kestrel.

   

One theory suggests that people with these flutes would position themselves near waterfowl. By imitating the calls of birds of prey, they would scare the waterfowl into taking flight, making them easier to catch. The confusion caused by the commotion may have also led to trapping the birds of prey themselves. The flutes likely served various social, cultural, and symbolic functions for the hunter-gatherers of the time.

The intact flute discovered at the site is a unique find. According to Dr. Laurent Davin and Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), it is the only one in the world in such good condition. The study provides valuable insights into hunting methods and complements our understanding of the transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture in the southern Levant region. Preserving cultural finds from excavations is crucial for gaining new insights and advancing research in various disciplines.

Click to hear flute recording

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