Discovered in 1995 in the Divja Babe cave in Slovenia, a 60,000-year-old flute is thought to be the world's oldest instrument, and according to the National Museum of Slovenia, it was most likely made by Neanderthals. The flute is made from the femur of a young cave bear.
At the time I was writing Nightsong, there was some controversy about the flute and research was suggesting that the holes in the bone may have been made by hyenas, or that perhaps Cro-Magnons from a later period created the flute. I decided not to include Neanderthal flutists in my story. The Neanderthals in Nightsong make music with their bodies or with natural objects around them--shaking rattles made with seeds, blowing folded leaves to make whisting sounds, etc. Yet I am still intrigued by this flute and it's possible that a Neanderthal musician created it. I like to imagine the sound of flute music floating over an ancient forest thousands of years ago.
Here is a video of Jelle Atema, Professor of Biology and Adjunct Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, playing a replica of the flute at the American Museum of Natural History. (He is also an accomplished flautist.) After I heard this, I wanted to try the flute out. The museum shop of the National Museum of Slovenia sells a replica, but I don't think you can order it online. I may have to travel there someday to get one!
I am the author of NIGHTSONG: A Neanderthal mystery. I hope you may want to dip into my blog after you've read my novel (or even if you haven't) to learn a bit more about the Neanderthals and to hear some of the music described in the novel. I may go off topic sometimes...