Tune in to the past

2019-03-07 09:12:15

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have uncovered a 9000-year-old Chinese bone flute—and managed to play a tune on it. Older instruments have been found elsewhere, but none is in a good enough condition to play, say Garman Harbottle of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, and his colleagues (Nature, vol 401, p 336). The flute, which was made from the leg bone of a red-crowned crane, was found at Jiahu, the site of an ancient farming village on the Yellow River flood plain. Several other flutes were found at the site, but only one is playable. “The thing has a tone scale which is rather similar to our present-day doh-ray-mi tone scale,” he says,