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Jelle Atema playing Neanderthal flute replica made with 50-100,000 year old cave bear fossil at AMNH

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 Archeology / Paleontology   |   Fine Arts   |   Music   |   Science
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Jelle Atema is a Professor of Biology and Adjunct Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He is also an accomplished flautist with a particular interest in Neanderthal flute replicas.

There is only one flute that has ever been identified as POSSIBLY being of Neanderthal origin. Known as the Divje Babe Flute, it is a cave bear femur pierced by spaced holes that was found in 1995 at the Divje Babe archeological park located near Cerkno in northwestern Slovenia (and currently resides in the National Museum of Slovenia). A replica is on display in the American Museum of Natural Anne and Bernard Spitzer History's Hall of Human Origins.

For the Museum's upcoming Crime Scene Neanderthal program, which incorporates the flute, Jelle was generous enough to visit the museum and demonstrate how this flute might have been played. This is one of a series of videos in which he plays:
- A version of the flute (Quena) developed by the Slovenian museum (3 holes)
- A version of the flute (Fipple) developed by Jelle using a modern black bear bone (4 holes)
- A version of the flute (Fipple) developed by Jelle using a 50-100,000 year old European cave bear fossil (4 holes)... not that Neanderthals would have used fossils, but still...
- A lobster, used as a flute, to demonstrate that even if Neanderthals did not MANUFACTURE musical instruments that doesn't mean they couldn't have played the ones provided by nature.

(While Jelle is an accomplished flautist, I should note we asked him to demonstrate the flutes in the driest possible way, so we could focus on the different ways the original fossil can be reconstructed and how the fingerings produce different pitches. He quite deliberately avoided making music which would have imposed his personal taste on a Neanderthal flute.)

You can learn more about the program here:

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