No. 198, April 2008. * www.greenwych.ca * Greenwich, 306-244-0679 * ISSN 0704-6588

  F A N G  or  F L I N T?   
What Made the "Neanderthal Flute"?
Is this object the earliest known diatonic scale sequence?
 
By Bob Fink

Reply to Iain Morley's paper in Nov/2007 Oxford Journal of Archaeology (OJA)
 
Figure #1: The Neanderthal Flute
 
 
Summary. Palaeontologist Ivan Turk publicly announced in 1997 that a juvenile bear cub femur that he found at the Divje Babe I site, near Idrija in northwestern Slovenia, was a 43,100 year-old "Neanderthal Flute" (see figure 1 above). The bone's four holes appear lined-up, with a possible "thumb hole" on the opposite side. Both ends of the bone are heavily chewed and damaged (Turk 2000).
 
The interpretation of the Divje Babe bone as a human-made flute was soon disputed. The claim in papers by Francesco d'Errico et al (1998); April Nowell and Philip Chase (1998); and re-stated by Iain Morley (2006, 317-333), was that the object's holes were caused by carnivore chewing damage. Those papers challenged the view (Fink 1997) that the hole spacings matched a diatonic scale sequence, among the most widespread scales known.
 
This paper defends the flute interpretation and provides evidence Morley and others ignored.
 

  
OMITTED EVIDENCE I
Length of the Original Bone
 
Morley wrote: "Fink ...observes... four... holes... appear to be spaced so as to reproduce a portion of a diatonic scale (me, fa, so, la); the probability of such a set of hole spacings having occurred by chance is exceedingly small. Whether the holes do reproduce these notes as a portion of a scale depends, though, on the total length of the original bone. Kunej and Turk state that, owing to the young age of the bear cub, the complete bone would not have been long enough to reproduce the length of air column necessary for Fink's ... reconstruction." (Morley 2006, 321)
 
The possibility exists that an extension could have simply been added to the bone (Fink 1997). The scale notes need a bone length of about 37cm to be played exactly in tune to a diatonic sequence.
 
But most important (as can be found in the works Morley cited from me), Morley did not note the letters I published by scholars from museums and zoos and the like (Fink 1997, 22; 2003a, 22). We knew the width of the broken femur. Based on age and/or the usual average width-to-length ratio in cave-bear cubs, all the museums and scholars that responded to my request about the original length of the bone were unanimous about the length. In their letters, the authors all concluded the unbroken Divje Babe femur would've been more than long enough to play the notes in tune. The 1997 letters follow.  
The Age of the juvenile cave bear femur from Divje Babe is under two years or two years old. (Turk et al,  1997, 157; Morley 2006, 319, d'Errico et al 1998, 66.)
 
The length of the bone, on the basis of these opinions and simple verifiable measurements, provides competent evidence contrary to Morley's assumptions about the bone being too short.
 
The Unbreakable Bone
 
Morley quotes a passage from Turk:
 
"Turk et al (1997) established by experiment that fresh bear bone is so elastic that they could puncture holes in it at any point without its smashing as fossil bone does.... In 2001, Turk et al, make far more of the likelihood of the bone cracking, saying it would be difficult to make two holes in a line with each other without the bone cracking longitudinally; however, they go on to say [the bone] cracked in three out of eight experimental piercings, i.e., only 37.5 percent of the time." (Morley, 2006, 324).
 
But writing in Origins of Music, from which Morley did not quote for some reason, Turk reported a different result, saying that all bones cracked:
 
"...compact bone regularly splits longitudinally when a tooth penetrates this deep, as was the case with the holes in the suspected flute.... Strength was measured at the Laboratory of Non-linear Mechanics...using steel points, bronze casts of wolf and hyena dentition, and fresh thigh bones of brown bear. In widening the experimental holes to the size of those on the suspected flute, exerting the same force as for piercing, all juvenile bones cracked. We thank Profs. J Grum and F. Kosel for their help.... The ultimate goal of every bone-eating carnivore is to split a bone into two pieces to get at the marrow. The question is why this goal was not achieved after so many attempts, when most of the necessary energy had been invested in piercing the cortical shell and widening the holes." (Turk and Kunej 2000, 242, 265.)
 
Marrow, Chewing & Attracting Carnivores
  
Proponents of the carnivore-origin pose this argument about marrow:
 
* If you assume the holes were human-made, then marrow is usually removed before making flute holes (Nowell and Chase, 1998, 551-2; Nowell and Chase, 2003, 72; Morley, 2006, 323), not afterward.
 
But then, what explains the chewing? Specifically, Morley wrote the presence of marrow attracted animals to the bone and caused the ensuing chewing damage, which made the holes:
 
"...Chase and Nowell (1998, 550) state that the carnivore damage to the ends of the bone is a 'textbook case' of the damage caused by carnivores when they remove the nutritious cancellous tissue [marrow] from the ends of the bone; since the object would have been non-functional as a flute before the removal of this tissue, this implies that if there is any evidence of human agency on the bone it would have to post-date the damage to the ends of the bone, not pre-date it. Therefore the carnivore activity cannot be said to overlie evidence of human activity in these areas of the bone" (Morley, 2006, 323).
 
Morley further wrote: "As far as Turk et al (1997) are concerned, the damage at the ends of the femur, including the semicircular hole damage...is consistent with carnivore gnawing damage, and is paralleled by several other cave-bear femurs from the site...." (Morley, 2006, 321).
 
But Morley omits dealing at all with what was written by Turk and others about chewing: "We are familiar with examples in which indisputable bone artifacts, such as Upper Paleolithic bone points, were greatly chewed by beasts after people ceased to use them (Turk and Stele 1997: figure 57; Lopez Bayon et al 1997: photo 1)" (Turk and Kunej, 2000, 240, 248).
 
Further, Turk wrote, about the marrow (spongiose) in the Divje Babe bone:
  
"The marrow cavity is basically cleaned of spongiose. The colour of the marrow cavity does not differ from the colour of the external surface of the bone. So we may conclude that the marrow cavity was already open at the time.... Otherwise, it would be a darker colour than the surface of the bone, as we know from coloured marrow cavities of whole limb bones" (Turk et al, 1997, 160).
 
D'Errico too, noted the bone had been empty of marrow (d'Errico et al, 1998, 77).
 
Therefore, if Morley had noted or quoted all the foregoing observations, his conclusions would be severely weakened, regarding his certainty about when the holes were made.
 
OMITTED EVIDENCE II
 
The Odds Against Nature Mimicking a Flute
  
There is further evidence avoided by Morley (and also by d'Errico, Nowell and Chase). For example, Morley avoids any attempt to explain the alignment of the holes, as did d'Errico, et al.
 
Morley, by substituting different words for "holes" (like "perforations" "notches," "damage," "openings," or other such words), therefore concludes that two broken end holes were "almost certainly" never holes and writes there is no further need for any explanation of the alignment of holes nor why two broken end holes were semicircular. But earlier, critics of the flute interpretation indeed had written these end-openings were "four possible holes" or "partial, semicircular holes" or "incomplete holes" [Emphasis added.]  (Nowell and Chase 2003, 70, 71; d'Errico et al 1998, 66,69; d'Errico 2003, 90) and even Morley, too (Morley 2006, 321).
 
Nowell and Chase earlier concluded: "There is little dispute about the observations that have been made on the specimen itself. There are, however, disagreements about the interpretations of these observations" (Nowell and Chase 2003, 72).
 
But as Morley wrote: "The issue of the probability of the holes occurring in line with each other is considerably reduced in magnitude by virtue of the fact that three of the putative five holes were almost certainly never holes" (Morley 2006, 324). Morley then, without explaining why  the end holes were semicircular, concluded: "Since we have only two holes, therefore, the issue of improbability of a chance occurrence of a diatonic scale spacing...becomes a non-issue...human activity need not be invoked to explain these features" (Morley 2006, 323).
 
Nonetheless, regardless of the name assigned to them, the "perforations," or whatever they are called, are still lined-up.
 
Are the Holes Random or Deliberate?
 
Using the letter "O" to represent holes or semi-circular openings in the Divje Babe flute, in figure 2 there is this approximate arrangement of openings in the femur:
 
Figure 2:     O  O   O O
 
Bec ause the holes (or perforations) are not equally spaced, casual observers might think they are randomly arranged, because random or chance measurements are usually unequal and patternless. However, unequal spacings cannot be automatically assumed to be random, because, the holes are also:
 
* Lined-up, four in a row, and also;
* Have similar sized diameters;
* Are all nearly circular (unlike bites which are usually more oval);
* And like a flute, the holes fit the size of fingertips, and exist on a hollow cylindrical bone.
 
 
 Figure 2a:  Perspective version of assumed flute
 
Those four features are not random-looking, and can indicate human design. They do not square with the one feature showing apparently random unequal spacing. On further investigation, that unequal spacing shows a very close match to the unique spacing of flute holes found in a diatonic sequence, do, re, mi & fa (see figure 2), contradicting any initial conclusion of being randomly spaced. Therefore, a test of probability was needed to answer the question: 'How likely is it that particular  sequence can occur due to natural processes?'
 
An invitation came to me to write a rebuttal to d'Errico, Nowell and Chase by the organizers of The Archaeology of Sound conference held in Germany, 2000.   I outlined a probability analysis on whether it was reasonable to believe a flute-like bone, capable of playing a diatonic sequence, was made all by random acts of nature (Fink 2003, 83-87). Nowell, Chase and d'Errico had already concluded a carnivore origin of the object was the most "probable" or "likely" interpretation. (Nowell and Chase 2003, 74; d'Errico et al 1998, 78.)
 
The probability analysis, showing the bone matched the spacing of a known world-wide musical scale sequence, mathematically contradicts those assertions.
 
The probability calculation concluded that seven million or more different random ways exist for four-hole arrangements to appear on any similar length and diameter cylinder as the Divje Babe bone, without  any of them looking like a flute with lined-up holes. By elimination, only a few arrangements remain  that could be flute-like, with a known scale sequence. More detail about this conclusion follows:
 
Without using any complex mathematics, a simplified version of the analysis follows.
 
On a cylinder about the size of the Divje Babe bone, four holes can be made in line. While keeping the four holes still lined-up in a row, if any one or more of the holes' locations is moved left or right by 0.4cm or more, then the four holes, as a set, can accumulate about 680 spacing patterns that do not  signify a musical scale nor anything else known that seems clearly purposeful.  To understand this visually, see the picture of five cylinders (figure 3) showing only five out of all the many ways to make different horizontal arrangements:
 
 
Figure 3: Five non-scale, unsuggestive, inconclusive spacings
 
But only  a few would match other known musical scales or show equally-spaced holes, which suggest a meaningful purpose (Fink 1997, 9).
 
Continuing, if one or more holes is moved up or down  by the same 0.4cm, each such successive move will cause the four holes to noticeably go visually out of their alignment, again as a set,  and no longer seem flute-like.  There are ten or more such locations possible, to place one hole out-of-line around the Divje Babe bone's full diameter.  That's ten ways to be "out of line" just moving only one  hole. Because there are four holes that each could be placed up or down ten different ways, that gives a probability calculation, as follows, using simple multiplication: 10^4 (or ten times itself four times) which equals 10,000 ways for the four holes to not be aligned  like a flute.
 
Concluding the Probability Calculation of Nature Mimicking a Flute
 
Each  of the 680 horizontal  spacings can, therefore, have 10,000 ways to be put vertically out-of-line. (Note:  The first hole was included in the calculation, because on a flute, the unknown mouthpiece structure would represent a specific fixed or a "given" feature in the line-up.)
 
Therefore, the calculation concludes by multiplying the 10,000 by 680, giving 6,800,000 or close to seven million different ways for random arrangements of four holes to appear -- on any similar length and diameter cylinder as is the Divje Babe bone -- without  looking like a flute with lined-up holes.  Figure 4 shows a picture of one possible variant of such non-flute-like random holes:
 
 
Figure 4: Example of bone with four random holes
 
Conversely, the study concludes there is an extreme improbability, and that only a few chances in several million exist that random bites can  line-up in a known and unique scale spacing (Fink 2003, 85).
 
Consider further: What are the chances for nature imitating the other flute-like features besides spacing? There are additional odds against all four holes having similar-sized diameters (as there could be many thousands of combinations of different  diameters if random biting from 4 separate bites of different animals could have taken place). That means there are even fewer chances such a visual result can be caused from four assumed carnivore bites, especially when each hole was separately-made  (Nowell and Chase 1998, 552; d'Errico et al 1998, 76). The calculations provide a realistic order of magnitude: One chance in many millions -- perhaps even billions -- that nature could have mimicked a diatonic flute.
 
CT-SCAN RESULTS AND NEWER OBSERVATIONS
 
Turk published at least two articles about "multi-slice tomography" (CT scan) of the femur (Turk et al  2005, 2006). Turk concluded from the tomography results that there are at least four holes that were human-made.  Not two as Morley claimed. Turk wrote "...at least two (holes) were made prior to the damage to the proximal and distal ends of the diaphysis [the incomplete holes on each end]; and that carnivores could not have made all the holes, but one at the most."  (Turk et al  2006, Abstract.)
 
Turk further concluded: "Conclusions about the origin of the holes therefore cannot be reached only on the basis of the damage.... The holes are very probably artificial, made by the combined use of stone and simple bone tools found at the Divje Babe I site, ..."  (Turk et al  2006, abstract).
 
Elsewhere, Turk notes: "The four holes were created first, and only subsequently the majority of the damage, which can be ascribed to carnivores. We even succeeded in establishing a more exact succession of events at the two ends of the diaphysis and the distal metaphysis..."  (Turk et al  2006, 34). That finding was not addressed by Morley.
 
Also the CT scan further confirmed the absence of marrow (Turk et al  2005, 34)
 
"On the basis of the results of in-depth research of recent years, the origin of the holes on the 'flute' can no longer be in doubt. We believe we have demonstrated sufficiently clearly that it is actually an exceptional find, the oldest flute-like artefact, and that sooner or later, it will be necessary for Paleolithic archaeology to be reconciled with this."  (Turk et al  2005, 36.)
 
Morley ignores virtually all the CT scan findings.
 
MISLEADING STATEMENTS
 
D'Errico et al, wrote: "...holes of the same size, shape and number...occur on cave bear limb bones from cave bear bone accumulations with no human occupation, and that a number of features described as human-made by the discoverers should more likely be interpreted as the result of carnivore damage" (d'Errico 2003, 89), and wrote: "The presence of two or possibly three perforations on the suggested flute cannot therefore be considered as evidence of human manufacture, as this is a common feature in the studied sample." (D'Errico 2003, 90).
 
Both Turk and I noted the same inaccurate quote above ("this is a common feature") from d'Errico. Turk wrote that statement is "inaccurate and tendentious. D'Errico et al do not quote [the source] and do not explain how they managed to see the sample. Perhaps because there is no example of a perforated diaphyse, let alone perforated so many times...which is comparable with the femur of Divje Babe I."  (Turk et al 2005, 35.) [Emphasis added] (Also see Fink 2003a, August 2003 update )
 
D'Errico's earlier words ("...same size, shape and number..." above ) are equally misleading.
Morley verified this somewhat: "Whilst the collections of cave bear bones examined by d'Errico et al, as well as those discussed by Turk et al, do show similar shaped and damaged holes...none of these occur in the diaphysis [thick portion] of a femur [as are found on the disputed flute]" (Morley 2006, 329)
 
BROADER IMPLICATIONS, IF THE BONE IS A FLUTE
 
Music Archaeology & Music Origins
 
If history records the object as a flute, it would be the world's oldest known musical instrument and earliest example exhibiting spacings of a diatonic ("do, re, mi, fa") sequence of holes, as is found in other disparate times and places. It would also tell a great deal about the origins of the pentatonic and diatonic scales -- and of music itself.
 
Finding (among bones which could not possibly be human-made) a few chewed individual holes similar to the holes in Divje Babe is the focus underlying conclusions by Morley et al.   It is important to test that evidence within a much broader context or focus. A bone which can 'by chance' match and play an aligned diatonic spacing sequence surely demands more explanation than silence.
 
The number of significant archaeological finds like Divje Babe's has grown over twenty or thirty years. They challenge some time-worn assumptions about music history largely still taught and believed. Namely, long-held ideas that there are no "naturally" inspired scales; no overall human "evolution" of music, and that harmony is relatively recent and "Western" in music history (Kilmer et al, 1976, 14).
 
These are the more recent major archaeological music finds:
  
Figure 5: Matchup between a modern minor scale and the Divje Babe femur.
That spacing match-up is almost like finding a fingerprint match.
 
What Forces Dictate the Unique Hole Spacings as Found in the Divje Babe Femur?
 
Answers to that question reveal this bone's potential impact in support of certain views about the origins of music and of widely found scales. A unique spacing pattern between aligned holes which initially appears to be meaningless, but isn't necessarily so, surely must have some explanation dictating its frequent, increasing appearance in other various periods, cultures and places.
 
Of course, we know many other scales and spacings exist on ancient flutes, most notably equal spacings (based on finger-width, or a simple penchant for orderliness). But spacings which are not equal, are more often diatonic (or pentatonic), or at least appear to often settle upon a five or seven note scale. This flute-like object from Divje Babe, which being nearly 50,000 yrs old, strongly suggests some underlying physiological impulse at work rather than vast coincidence.
 
Hans Hickmann wrote:
 
"Primitive polyphony for two or three voices, with the Assyrians as well as with the Egyptians of Pharaonic times since the third millennium B.C., is unquestionably based on intervals of fourth, fifth and octave [or Do]. Besides, these intervals have assumed a major role in the tuning and play of certain musical instruments. This has been observed from study and measurement of wind instruments in good state of preservation...." (Hickmann 1960, 103).
 
The fundamental physiological impulses at work regarding these intervals are simple acoustics, and, when applied to music origins, turn out to be illuminating, but quite simple (Fink 2003a, 2-10).
 
To explain: Any note in nature has overtones. Overtones are noticeable usually as a different quality  of sound (e.g., as a "single" pitch on a piano, or on a trumpet, etc). So that single  note's individual overtones are audible, but heard sub-rosa, not like a chord of several separate tones -- just as the mix of red and yellow are seen not separately, but as a single colour: orange.
 
The most audible overtones belonging to the three most nearly universal intervals found across time -- the most used tones heard in almost all cultures -- namely, a tone's octave, fourth and fifth (or the notes Do, Fa, and Sol) -- likely inspired an evolution into the most widespread of scales as follows:  
 All the above are the likeliest responses to overtones by the human ear over time, and those general responses are indeed demonstrated throughout music history and various cultures. (Fink 2003a, 2-10)
 
Furthermore: Definitions of notes, known as the tonic, dominant or subdominant (a "trio" of the three starting tones Do, Fa and Sol), evolve because the average strengths of the audible overtones are unequal, those three being much more audible than the others in the scales. The average audibility of those overtones determines, over historic time, the role and power of each note in a scale that originated from those overtones This in turn creates tonality (defined as a "sense of key" or "loyalty to a fundamental tonic" or "keynote"); which creates tonal scales (such as the pentatonic, and especially the diatonic) and a sense of "middle" and "end" to a melody, or to any series of notes or harmonies.
 
In addition, the chords in history generally harmonizing almost all notes of a melody (where harmony exists at all) are those based on the same trio  of intervals (tonic, fourth and fifth). Such tonality and harmonic systems were accomplished by musicians long before anyone was aware of acoustic science).
 
Thus those influences from the presence of those overtones, depending how many of the audible overtones are chosen to be added to the scale or tuned into it, are the forces, more likely than random chance, that brought into being the bone from Divje Babe, and over time, led to the most widespread scales known today, the pentatonic, the diatonic major-minor system; and their sense of mode, or key or tonality.
 
CONCLUSIONS
 
The lined-up spacings of holes on the Divje Babe femur is among real evidence which shows that it was a 'human carnivore' which did the 'biting' of holes. As seen, that evidence is fallaciously dismissed by Morley, d'Errico et al, Nowell and Chase. The dismissal is largely based in their calling the two end holes not "holes," but carnivore "perforations" or "notches" and other euphemistic terms.
 
Does that semantic sidestep prevent these holes from looking, being, or acting like real "holes"? That approach, to try to redefine the object as having only two holes, can't absolve us from the need to explain the line-up of the earlier admitted "four possible holes" (Nowell and Chase 2003, 70), nor to explain most of the other flute-like features.
 
As noted, Morley used his interpretation (namely, that the two end-holes were "never holes"), and wrote that there is therefore no longer a "line-up" needing any explanation (Morley 2006, 324). This means this interpretation or conclusion is now used as factual evidence, or as if it was an observation. This approach reverses the usual practice of using evidence to form conclusions or interpretations. Instead it uses conclusions to replace observations, or avoid noting observations, possibilities or evidence.
 
But even if semi-circular portions of two punctures on the ends of the broken femur are not called "holes," there is no difference or change which that can possibly make in their visual appearance and alignment. Whatever they are called, they are still aligned.  
 
But, if we instead conclude, from observing that scale-like alignment, that the alignment is evidence that the semi-circular "perforations" or "notches" (or whatever they're called), were at least possibly if not likely complete holes before the ends were broken and chewed -- that would restore the proper logical direction of going from observation, or from evidence, to conclusions.
 
This object looks like a flute -- Again: Four apparent holes in-line; with similar-sized diameters; matching the unique spacing of a diatonic scale sequence; with a bore-to-hole diameter ratio that is flute-like; and other flute-like features.
 
Those observations are true taphonomic evidence, just as the spacings of the holes, if any two of them had matched the tooth-span of any carnivore (which none did match), would have likewise been considered bona fide evidence  indicating a carnivore(s) made the holes. But a spacing that matches a known musical scale  remains summarily dismissed as not being "evidence" -- frankly, because it would be evidence not convenient to a pre-ordained conclusion.
 
The chances those features being naturally caused are so improbable, they trump the inconclusive taphonomic evidence which experienced taphonomists still dispute. Especially on a bone that has weathered beyond 43,000 years. (Turk et al, 2006.)
 
Certainly, some of the bone's individual features and holes, seen separately from the whole evidence, exhibit very possible carnivore intervention. But that approach will miss seeing the 'forest' because it sees only some individual  trees.
 
Note this simple analogy to place the probability notion in a more familiar reality: Suppose a reader is shown a bone, and on it are clearly scratched marks that look like the letter "F" -- and also, the letters L, U, T, and E. And these are lined up, like a word.
 
One could visit inside a cave known to be frequented only by carnivores (as did d'Errico for his 1998 Antiquity article's evidence) and one might inevitably find some bones which have clear scratches that would look like any one of the letters of the alphabet. Like an F or an E, etc., on any given bone. But what no one will find is all the letters lined-up on one bone, virtually equal in height, and matching the spelling of a real, known word (or, by this analogy, spelling out or matching a real, widely found musical scale sequence).
 
And that's the fatal flaw in the critics' arguments: It wasn't realized the odds would be so great against that alignment being "accidental" that one ends up by seriously unmathematically claiming a carnivore explanation was the "more probable" or "most likely" explanation (Nowell et al, 2003, 74; d'Errico et al, 1998, 78).
 
Morley et al  say nature built a sophisticated flute with no human help and the scale-like line-up of holes, all nearly equal in diameter, no longer need explaining. Their arguments miss the "whole" for overly concentrating on the look of a single hole, like in The Emperor's New Clothes  fable -- wherein the crowd did not want to offend the emperor and so pretended not to see the 'naked truth' (that the emperor was plainly naked with no new clothes on at all).
 
Far more likely is that the object is a flute, and is the earliest known example of a diatonic scale sequence, containing again, that virtually universal trio of tones: unison, a fifth and a fourth.
 
================ R E F E R E N C E S ===============
 
April Nowell and Philip G. Chase, 2003. "Is a cave bear bone from Divje Babe, Slovenia, a Neanderthal flute? The Divje Babe specimen and the diatonic scale" in Studies in Music Archaeology III, pp.69-81.
 
April Nowell and Philip G. Chase, 1998. "Taphonomy of a Suggested Middle Paleolithic Bone Flute from Slovenia." in Current Anthropology, Aug-Oct., Vol 39, #4, pp 549-553
 
Boylan, Patrick, 1997, in Museum-L Archives: See: http://home.ease.lsoft.com/scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind9707B&L=MUSEUM-L&F=&S=&P=47003  Retrieved April 2, 2007.
 
D'Errico, Francesco, et al, 1998. "A Middle Palaeolithic origin of music?" in Antiquity journal, March, pp.65-78.
 
D'Errcio, Francesco, 2003. "Just a Bone or a flute?" in Studies in Music Archaeology III, Eichmann, Hickmann, Kilmer, eds., Verlag Marie Leidorf GmbH., Rahden/Westf. Germany, pp 89-90.
 
Fink, Bob (aka Robert Fink): 1997. The Neanderthal Flute, Greenwich, Canada. (See also: http://www.greenwych.ca/fl-compl.htm)
 
Fink, Robert, 2003. "The Neanderthal Flute and the Origins of the Scale -- Fang or Flint -- a Response," in Studies in Music Archaeology III, Eichmann, Hickmann, Kilmer, eds., Verlag Marie Leidorf GmbH., Rahden/Westf. Germany, pp. 83-87.
 
Fink, Bob, 2003a. On the Origin of Music, Greenwich, Canada.
 
Hickmann, Hans: 1960, "Presence de la constante de quarte, de quinte et dans octave et son role structurel dans la antiquity pre-hellenistique" ("Presence of the Constant of the Fourth, Fifth and Octave -- Its Structural Role in Pre-Hellenic Antiquity"), in: La resonance dans les Echelles musicales, Paris, 9-14. Mai 1960, Paris 1963. (Colloques Internationaux du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. Sciences humaines), 103-122.
 
Kilmer, Crocker, Brown eds., 1976. Sounds from Silence, Bit Enki Publications, Berkeley.
 
Morley, Iain: 2006. "Mousterian Musicianship?" in Oxford Journal of Archaeology, November, Vol. 25 #4, pp. 317-333.
 
Turk, Ivan, ed., 1997, Mousterienska Koscena Piscal in druge najdbe iz Divjih Bab I v Sloveniji (Mousterian Bone Flute and Other Finds from Divje Babe I Cave Site in Slovenia), Znanstvenoraziskovalni Center Sazu, Ljubljana.
 
Turk, Ivan and Kunej, Drago, 2000. "New Perspectives on the Beginnings of Music: Archaeological and Musicological Analysis of a Middle Paleolithic Bone 'Flute' " in The Origins of Music, Wallin, Merker and Brown, eds.: MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass; London, U, .pp. 235-268.
 
Turk, Ivan, Miran Pflaum, and Dean Pekarovic. 2005. "Rezultati racunalniske tomografije najstarejse domnevne piscali iz Divjih bab I (Slovenija): prispevek k teoriji luknjanja kost," "Results of Computer Tomography of the Oldest Suspected Flute from Divje Babe I (Slovenia): Contribution to the Theory of Making Holes in Bones" (English and Slovenian). in Arheoloski Vestnik: Acta Archaeologica -- Ljubljana: Slovenska Akademija Znanosti in Umetnosti, Sekcija za arheologijo Vol. 56, 9-36.
 
Turk, Ivan, Bonnie A.B. Blackwell, Janus Turk, Miran Pflaum: 2006. "Results of Computer Tomography of the oldest Suspected Flute from Divje Babe I (Slovenia)." in L'Anthropologie. Vol. 110 (3), Publi_ par Elsevier Masson SAS.
 
Xiao Xinghua, 2003. "On the Musical Civilization of the Neolithic Age in China as Illustrated by the Ancient Bone Flutes (from 9,000 to 7,800 years ago) Unearthed at Jiahu, Henan Province," in Studies in Music Archaeology III, Eichmann, Hickmann, Kilmer, eds., Verlag Marie Leidorf GmbH., Rahden/Westf. Germany, pp. 161-167. (See also: http://www.greenwych.ca/9ooo-1.htm#Update Retrieved April 13,2007)
 
[ All art & illustrations by Bob Fink (c) 2007, Greenwich.]
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Updated Mar 2003-- Two New Books on Music Origins & Music Archaeology
Jan 2004 -- * Lacking clear taphonomic evidence, how could we tell artifact from accident?

 
Subject: That Neanderthal Bone FLUTE again!!
Date: Sat, 07 Oct 2000
From: Greenwich [Bob Fink]
To the list:
I received a letter reporting on a recent conference in Germany of music archeologists which indicated the Neanderthal bone flute had been discussed. It was reported that most folks concluded, after hearing Nowell and d'Errico, that the bone in question is a coincidence: it looks like a flute; perhaps it was used as one, but it wasn't made to be one. At the same time, no one (including d'Errico) thought that it was impossible that the Neanderthals did produce music instruments; only this is not one of them. In general, nearly everyone was convinced by the comparative bone evidence that it is a startling but chance similarity to a flute. But the idea was not given up entirely.
It seems (so far as I know at present) there was no one there who formally presented the opposite case, such as Ivan Turk nor others -- other than perhaps some people who, without researched preparation, may have questioned the issues.
Prof. Bonnie Blackwell has claimed the markings on the bone do not conform to a tooth bite, are not smooth, but have striations running round the hole: "The holes' edges do not show the type of incisions that would occur with a punch. They have striations that go around the hole, not from the top to the bottom of the hole." [See also photo]
D'Errico's view that the holes are smooth appear to be without credibility, especially as d'Errico never examined the actual bone first-hand.
But even conceding this point, Marcel Otte points out that traces of hominid activity could have been obliterated in such an old bone, rather than having never been there.
This would make all other evidence far more relevant and valuable than the disputed taphonomic evidence. But few will look at any other evidence.
I have read d'Errico's article several times, I cannot see what some feel is so "convincing" about it. It is a conclusion based on comparisons to single holes made by nature or bites on other bones. That these could be similar shape could indicate any one of the Neanderthal bone holes might be a bitten hole -- but not all four holes in line. There are no discovered bones anywhere among the thousands found, formed by natural means, that have most or all of these features:
Holes in-line; on a cylindrical hollow bone; all of very similar diameter; found in close proximity to a fireplace. Not to mention capable of playing do-re-mi-fa notes!!
Further, the holes cannot have been formed by one animal bite, as the distances between holes match no known tooth-span of animals with the strength to bite-through. The expected scratches and surrounding marks that would accompany such bitten holes do not appear on the N-bone, nor do such holes appear in virtually any of the many bones found in the Neanderthal cave -- as would be expected if animals had been there to gnaw at the bones. Virtually all holes appear only in the one single bone.
The whole conclusion against it being an artifact rests on two things:
First: D'Errico's reputation and:
Secondly, on the so-called "need" -- (even by those, like d'Errico & Robert Bednarik, who do not believe Neanderthals are dumb brutes) -- to avoid accepting an artifact that revolutionizes concepts about Neanderthals unless it meets standards of proof, as Bednarik wrote me, that are in excess of what is amply sufficient to constitute probable proof when an item is found among homo-sapien digs. It seems to me the standards demanded for the Neanderthal bone are next to impossible.
Sort of like the Black cop who brutalizes Black lawbreakers even more than white cops do -- to prove he isn't playing favourites toward his own Black people.
___________
 
The d'Errico and Chase/Nowell articles are a dismissal of ALL the powerful evidence for it being an artifact-flute apparently because this evidence does not fit the pre-determined conclusion.
Reliance on "coincidence" in order to dismiss this evidence could almost be taken seriously if it weren't for the apparent ignorance of simple probability arithmetic that makes this "coincidence" we are asked to accept equivalent to a full-scale mammoth miracle, and thus makes the dismissal of this evidence border on the absurd.
In fairness, like the authors of this view, most people have their pockets emptied at gambling casinos and at lottery booths because we likewise tend to grossly and extremely overestimate our chances of winning or getting 4 plums in a row, thinking it must be 1 chance in 400 or even 1-in-40 -- not realizing, that if there are ten symbols on each of the 4 wheels, then there is only 1 chance in 10,000 to get a 4-plum line-up!
Likewise, there are at least 10 places 'round the bone where any of the holes (like plums) could be vertically out-of-line making the odds of the holes being in-line (by chance) similar to the casino odds, not to mention multiplying this by the odds that make the horizontal hole-spacings consistent with do-re-mi-fa -- which makes the total odds astronomical.
Had the authors realized the cosmic size of the "coincidence" (1 in millions) they invoked to avoid admitting it was indeed an artifact, they'd know how ludicrous is their ignoring of this evidence and how narrow & parochial is their not allowing a scientific but "non-archaeological" analysis (a simple probability study) to bring light on the matter for them.
Update: Jan 2004 -- * Lacking clear taphonomic evidence,
how could we tell artifact from accident?
For those denying the bone is an artifact, the similarity of any of its holes to a naturally formed or bitten hole is certainly suggestive evidence, but dismissing that evidence does not even come close to violating the norms of probability as does the dismissal of the line-up of the holes. Why rely on miracle coincidence to deny it's an artifact when you can face the evidence and conclude, if not prove, it "probably" is an artifact?
The dismissal of the evidence would be irrational if it wasn't known that other motives may exist to make this false conclusion into the chosen conclusion.
As Otte wrote:
"The idea of Mousterian ineptitude is one of the deepest and one of the most perverse because it reassures us about ourselves. The destiny of the Mousterian flute discovered at Divje Babe was preordained: it could be only disputable and doubtful, a priori."
 
From article by Marcel Otte:
CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume 41, Number 2, April 2000:
============================
Dan wrote:
I'm not saying the bone isn't a flute or that Neanderthals wouldn't have been capable of making such an item. I just find the evidence in this case to be overwhelmingly in support of the proposal that this piece was produced naturally (Otte's arguement is basically from a position of disbelief - it looks so much like a flute I can't believe it isn't one). Further studies may prove me wrong and I'm sure this debate has further to go than this intermediate position but currently the ball is in the court of the believers.
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Anne replied:
First, I'd like to thank Dan for taking his doubtless limited time to reply to this issue. At this point I will jump in to say what I've said earlier, right here on this forum, namely that I've seen credible-sounding evidence that says the Divje Babe object is a flute, and equally credible-sounding evidence that says it isn't. And, like Dan, I think Neandertals and other "archaic" humans were perfectly capable of making, and tootling on, flutes. It's just that, so far, the Divje Babe object may fall into the "ambiguous" category (at least until we can find other, similar objects firmly placed in "Neandertal times"). And it would be nice if Bonnie Blackwell and Ivan Turk would join this group so they could explain themselves and their reasoning to the rest of us (yoo-hoo, Slovenia! :-) )
However, having said the above, it seems to me that there are a bunch of people "out there" who are all too willing to disbelieve Neandertal abilities in this regard. For these people, it's not a flute because Neandertals were incapable of making and using flutes (to his credit, as Dan points out, D'Errico is not one of these folks). There are still people who disbelieve that the Berekhat Ram figurine is a "real" artistic or esthetic effort. I just "talked" to one such individual yesterday, in another context.
So while I think the Divje Babe flute, or whatever it is, falls into the "ambiguous" category as far as Neandertal-made objects is concerned (at least for the present), I also think that there is a tremendous amount of work to be done before more people will accept MP evidence for artistic or esthetic or symbolic capacity. There are still too many people "out" there, who will accept similar objects at face value if they think they are made by AMH, but not if they seem to be made by Neandertals. In other words, they are setting artificially high barriers to acceptance of such objects, if they are made by Neandertals. Whether or not these "artificial barriers" exist re the Divje Babe object, I cannot say at this time, but we will just have to wait and see. -- Anne G
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Jack wrote:
If this artifact came from an Aurignacian site, not only would it have been a flute, the tune it played would have been reconstructed, the height and sex of the musician would have been calculated, the flute reproduced and being played at Palaeo lectures across the land as the Cro-Magnon Concerto for flute in D flat minor.
The durn thing is a flute.
==============================
Dan wrote:
I've got the Albrecht et al paper in front of me now and they give numerous examples with 2, 3 and 4 complete holes in them some of them are in line and some are not. The reason the Divje Baba ones are in a line is because they are on the flat part of the bone - if the bone was a perfect cylinder then fruit machine analogy would be appropriate but this greatly enhances the odds of the holes lying in a straight line. [But see also Turk]
Conclusion
I'm not saying the bone isn't a flute or that Neanderthals wouldn't have been capable of making such an item I just find the evidence in this case to be overwhelmingly in support of the proposal that this piece was produced naturally.... Currently the ball is in the court of the believers.
 
I'll snip Bob's piece just to keep things concise and address some of his points:
 
1. Blackwell v d'Errico
Francesco d'Errico is one of the leading experts in microscopic examinations of artifacts while Bonnie Blacwell is responsible for the ESR dating of the site:
Lau, B., Blackwell, B.A.B., Schwarcz, H.P., Turk, I. & Blickstein, J.I. (1997) Dating a flautist? Using ESR (Electron Spin Resonance) in the Mousterian cave desposits at Divje Babe I, Slovenia. Geoarchaeology. 12 (6). 507 - 36.
 
d'Errico's papers on the flute do show that the holes resemble other naturally produced holes:
 
d'Errico, F., Villa, P., Pinto Llona, A.C. & Idarraga, R.R. (1998a) A Middle Palaeolithic orgin of music? Using cave-bear bone accumulations to assess the Divje Babe I bone `flute'. Antiquity. 72 (275). 65 - 79.
 
d'Errico, F., Villa, P., Pinto Llona, A.C. & Ruiz Idarraga, R. (1998b) La « flûte » de Dijve Babe et les accumulations naturelles d'ossements d'ours des cavernes. In Brugal, J.-P., Meignen, L. & Patou-Mathis (eds) Économie Préhistorique: Les Comportements de Subsistence au Paléolithique. XVIIIe Rencontres Internationales d'Archéologie et d'Histoire d'Antibes. Éditions APDCA, Sophia Antipolis. 85 - 104.
 
I would tend to favour d'Errico's analysis over Blackwell's.
 
2. Holes and positioning.
These are not the only times this has been suggested:
Albrecht, G., Holdermann, C.-S., Kerig, T., Lechterbeck, J. & Serangeli, J. (1998) »Flöten« aus Bärenknochen – die frühesten Musikinstrumente?. Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt. 28 (1). 1 - 19.
Chase, P.G. (1990) Sifflets du Paléolithique moyen (?). Les implications d'un coprolite de coyote actuel. Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française. 87. 165 - 7.
==================================
Ed wrote to Dan:
Your analysis did not address some issues that I find significant here. First of all, not only are the holes in a line, but:
- their sizes are identical, and
- the separations between neighboring holes are identical.
It is highly unlikely (but admittedly not impossible) that natural processes could do this.
Then there is the kicker for me: The presense of striations that go round the hole. That is an issue that has to be addressed, because if they are there, then that is direct evidence that the holes were drilled into bone, and not punched or created by degradation. [See also photo]
As for the holes being on the flat part of the bone: It seems to me that this would be the easiest surface on which to start drilling holes.
EMS
==============================
Bob wrote to Dan:
Naturally, I think Jack has it right.
Three things about your view:
First:
To refer to Otte's view as not fully convincing because it comes from disbelief, i.e., "it looks so much like a flute I can't believe it isn't one" underscores my view on this:
If you are d'Errico, and hear a shot fired just around the corner, and then a second later round the corner to see a guy standing there with a smoking gun over a dead body -- you could say:
"It looks like you just shot this person, but I'll ignore that because it's just visual or statistical evidence -- not taphonomic evidence (the only "real" thing as evidence goes).
Instead, you'd say: I have a photo here of some dead guys who were killed with an ice-pick grapple.
Their wounds look just like the wound in the dead guy right here on the ground.
Therefore, my report will ONLY discuss this similarity in the wounds, which I conclude are ALL caused by an ice-pick. That you're standing there with a smoking gun is a coincidence!!"
....Thank YOU, detective d'Errico!!
Second:
Otte said, aside from Blackwell, that the holes could have been smoothed by time, erasing hominid markings. In addition, the holes could have been MADE using an animal tooth as a punch!!
As I said, even granting that Blackwell is blind, the only remaining undisputed evidence, among other things, is that it "looks like a flute."
When you factor in this: That of the dozens or hundreds of bones in that Divje Babe cave, why would several animals keep adding holes (in line) only to that one among hundreds of bones there??
The slight flatness of the bone that you mention is a good point -- except for the above fact. It had to be several animals over time, because no known tooth span matches the hole pattern (agreed by all), nor do other markings (half-bites, gnawing) appear near the holes as they often do in the collections that d'Errico offered in his article.
Third:
Relying on d'Errico's reputation is not an argument. The best of us make mistakes, or have human motivations that can get the best of us without our awareness. Recall RGB's letter to me?? I herewith append it just below my name -- it openly indicates a penchant to "blow the controversial bone out of the evidence pool that favours Mousterian sophistication -- and do it before the old-guard does it to us" -- is the message I get from RGB's letter.
My argument is that -- conscious or unconscious -- pressures & politics, not science, is at play here. Since when does "looking like a flute" NOT qualify as evidence??? -- nor even rate mention nor analysis!!?? That "look" is bonafide evidence, not grounds for dismissing Otte's or my arguments.
Despite the differing views, Dan, many thanks for writing in on this.
Best wishes, Bob
 
Letter from several month ago on this list:
=================================
Anne wrote to Jack:
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of truth to what you say [about the bone being proclaimed a flute without controversy had it been found at an Aurignacian site], and I see a strong underlying thread of this in discussions of its probable origin. While I'm inclined to think the thing probably is a flute (the holes look awfully round and evenly spaced for carnivore chewing to me, but then I don't claim to be any expert on these things), I'm also open to the possibility of its ambiguity, and this was the point I was attempting to make. Like many Middle Paleolithic objects, it is ambiguous (or considered ambiguous) in its nature, and we shouldn't discount this possibility, at least in the interests of "science". -- Anne G
==================================
Jacques wrote:
Just a few words to thank you for passing on a copy of RGB's letter. It makes a lot of sense.
==================================
Dan writes, quoting me first:
 
‘To refer to Otte's view as not fully convincing because it comes from disbelief, i.e., "it looks so much like a flute I can't believe it isn't one" underscores my view on this:
‘If you are d'Errico, and hear a shot fired just around the corner, and then a second later round the corner to see a guy standing there with a smoking gun over a dead body -- you could say:
‘ "It looks like you just shot this person, but I'll ignore that because it's just visual or statistical evidence -- not taphonomic evidence (the only "real" thing as evidence goes)."
‘Instead, you'd say: "I have a photo here of some dead guys who were killed with an ice-pick grapple.
‘Their wounds look just like the wound in the dead guy right here on the ground.
‘Therefore, my report will ONLY discuss this similarity in the wounds, which I conclude are ALL caused by an ice-pick. That you're standing there with a smoking gun is a coincidence!!"
‘ ....Thank YOU, detective d'Errico!!
 
Dan wrote: The conclusion that would be drawn from this is that an ice pick wielding maniac attacked a group of men and the man with the gun chased him off firing a few shots. The link between archaeology and forensics is a strong one and d'Errico is known as carrying out his investigations with a forensic rigour. An argument from disbelief would not stand up in court.
 
Quoting me again: ‘Otte said, aside from Blackwell, that the holes could have been smoothed by time, erasing hominid markings. In addition, the holes could have been MADE using an animal tooth as a punch!!'
 
Dan: Even if so (has anyone tried that? I know I'd use a sharp flake or point) the most likely explanantion would be that it was produced by an animal tooth while still alive....
 
Quoting Bob ‘...the only remaining undisputed evidence, among other things, is that it "looks like a flute."
‘When you factor in this: That of the dozens or hundreds of bones in that Divje Babe cave, why would several animals keep adding holes (in line) only to that one among hundreds of bones there??'
 
Dan: And the Albrecht paper and others show uniquely pierced objects found in large bone accumulations. The flute is at one end of a continuum of natural bone modification and I don't think you are fully aware of the range of naturally pierced artifacts (as I wasn't until the bone flute got my interest. I also couldn't believe it wasn't a flute when I first stuck the picture on my wall years ago. Subsequent research has shown me that arguing from disbelief just doesn't work in this case. There are cases where the taphonomic argument is so convoluted that the simplest explanation is that the thing is artificially produced - as is the case in some of the Neanderthal burials: see Chase and Dibble, 1992). The references I gave in the previous post have some excellent illustrations of such pieces.
 
Quoting Bob: ‘The slight flatness of the bone that you mention is a good point -- except for the above fact.' [See also Turk]
 
Dan: The flattening of the bone in this area does greatly reduce the odds as you've calculated them assuming the bone to be a tube.
 
Quoting Bob: ‘It had to be several animals over time, because no known tooth span matches the hole pattern (agreed by all), nor do other markings (half-bites, gnawing) appear near the holes as they often do in the collections that d'Errico offered in his article.
.
‘Again there are bones with more whole holes in that have been naturally produced - this would imply that this does happen....
‘Relying on d'Errico's reputation is not an argument.'
 
Dan: I was comparing him to your 'expert' witness. I am not relying on his reputation but on the rigour of his work (see above).
 
Quoting Bob: ‘The best of us make mistakes, or have human motivations that can get the best of us without our awareness. Recall RGB's letter to me?? I herewith append it just below my name -- it openly indicates a penchant to "blow the controversial bone out of the evidence pool that favours > Mousterian sophistication -- and do it before the old-guard does it to > us" -- is the message I get from RGB's letter.'
 
Dan: The message I get is generally what I've been saying:
1. As a unique artifact it needs to be thourghly investigated. When similar dubious cases emerge in the UP they tend to be accepted because of the large body of clear flutes available wwhere perhaps some of these have been naturally produced. See the range from Isturitz:
Buisson, D. (1990) Les flûtes paléolithique d'Isturitz (Pyrénées-Atlantiques). Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française. 87 (10-12). 420 - 33.
2. The artificial production of the flute has been rejected to the satisfaction of both skeptics and those (like RGB, myself and others) who would not dismiss evidence for early cognitive abilities out of hand. Unless someone comes along and provides better evidence to the contrary (or produces a few more clear early flutes) then it remains in the "equivocal at best" draw.
 
Quoting Bob: ‘My argument is that -- conscious or unconscious -- pressures & politics, not science, is at play here.'
 
Dan: I'm sure that is true for some finds which have been ignored but I can't in all honesty say that is the case here or I would still believe in its artificial nature.
 
Quoting Bob: ‘Since when does "looking like a flute" NOT qualify as evidence??? -- nor even rate mention nor analysis!!?? That "look" is bonafide evidence, not grounds for dismissing Otte's or my arguments.'
Dan: I don't want to tar you with the same brush but to point up the problem with this kind of logic I'd refer you to the Old Earth Creationists (see Cremo et al at the Talk.Origins archive) who hold up all sorts of evidence like Precambrian grooved balls and depressions which sort of look like human foot prints alongside geniune dinosaur foot prints. The logic of the argument from disbelief is flawed.
I like the quote from Jiri Svoboda in Shreeve's 'The Neandertal Enigma' who picks upa pierced reindeer toe bone and blows on it. Shreeve asks if it as whistle and Jiri replies:
"I don't know if it is a whistle .. I only know that it whistles" (p 285 in my copy).
 
Quoting Bob: ‘Despite the differing views, Dan, many thanks for writing in on this.'
.
Dan: And to you for keeping the focus on the flute. It may one day be proved to be artificial still, its just none of the objections yet raised here help move the argument on much from the day it was dig out of the dirt and someone thought "Blimey [or the Slovenian equivalent] this looks like a flute". Sorry - I'm still hoping though!!
============================
Anne wrote:
I think there are two problems here. One, and the most obvious, is that we only have one object that looks like a flute and is dated from an era in Europe where there were only Neandertals. This creates certain problems, since there is nothing similar to compare it. to.
And it also keeps the nature of the object ambiguous. I'm inclined to think it was a flute, based on its shape and the placement of its holes, which look just too even and round (to me) to hae been chewed by some sharp-toothed carnivore, but as I said before, I've seen credible-sounding arguments for the "other side".
Whether or not the Divje Babe object turns out to be a flute or not, I would hope that Turk, Blackwell, even D'Errico would be willing to keep their eyes out for similar objects associated with Neandertals. If flutelike objects turn up in Neandertal caves from time to time, it would be a fair bet to assume that yes, Neandertals tootled on flutes when time permitted.
The other problem is the "disbelief" factor. There are still plenty of people in and out of the field who don't believe N's were capable of any symbolic thinking. They were just creatures of some higher form of "instinct", according to this view. One exponent of th is view, as Dan well knows, is Robert Gargett and his "Neandertal burials weren't "really" burials" theory. Fortunately, there are enough evidences of intentional burial associated with Neandertals --- and, as at La Ferrassie, apparently incidences of symbolic behavior --- to suggest that Gargett's idea isn't wholly tenable, although there are certainloy Neandertal remains that aren't burials, and the two should be distinguished.
I think the same kind of approach could, and should, be used for the Divje Babe object. If many Neandertal flutes were found, there would always be skeptics, but it would be far more difficult to take the skeptics seriously. -- Anne G
===================================
Dan & all:
Here in the "sticks" it's hard to find a lot of sources. Library budget cutbacks, et al. Is there any way you can e-mail, fax or snail mail to me the pics you refer to above?
You very cleverly addressed my analogy of the smoking gun -- but you also did what d'Errico did not do: Address the prima facie evidence regarding the bone.
I recognize that "evidence" and "probability" is not the same as "proof." So the matter will always remain ambiguous to one degree or another -- and you have made a better case for greater ambiguity than I would have expected.
But I still don't accept the "looks-like-a-flute" evidence as merely an "argument from disbelief." To me it is positive prima facie evidence.
Further, I looked up Turk's photos and found a cross section of the femur -- and while the "flat" area is there, it is very subtle in its flatness -- the bone is virtually round. I will send a 2nd e-mail after this one with a scan-in of the cross-section, for those who can receive images.
And what still remains about this is the huge number of untouched bones in that cave, while this one bone gets so much so-called "random" attention -- AND with such clean (no secondary gnawing marks near and around the holes) punctures. So if flatness somewhat reduces the odds against a line-up, equal diameters and matching a unique musical scale pattern -- this bone's over-bitten attention moves the odds way back up again.
(Also, overlooked in your reply on the analogy -- just to waste a paragraph on trivia -- the analogy-detective d'Errico had only a PHOTOGRAPH of the ice-pick victims -- not the ACTUAL bodies with holes in them -- thus the explanation that the guy with the smoking gun had just chased off the ice-pick killers is a good try -- but unconvincing.)
But, leaving that analogy behind, what is still unconvincing to me is the choice d'Errico made:
He had two sets of evidence. The prima facie evidence (looks like a flute, same diameters, in line, et al) and his comparative evidence of naturally formed holes that look like the holes in the N-bone.
Even granting your argument about flatness, my opinion (though I'm not an archeologist expert) is that, if one of these two sets of evidence must be dismissed because they are in conflict -- regarding what conclusion to draw -- the MOST probable evidence is the prima facie evidence.
It's more logical and true to scientific thought [to me] to dismiss the comparative evidence. Put another way, the comparative evidence is not direct evidence, and has far less measureable probability of being true than does the prima facie evidence -- except for the motivated politic as expressed in Bednarik's letter, and that the direct prima facie evidence is not a cherished "taphonomic" type of evidence.
Please add to that point that there is conflicting interpretations regarding the markings of the holes (Turk's & Blackwell's "striations" showing holes consistent with being made with a flake). This taphonomic dispute among competent taphonomicites(?) further weakens d'Errico's comparative evidence.
But as said, I am very open to looking at any pics I can get hold of beyond what I have in the d'Errico's article (a copy of which I do have). Are these Albrecht photos the same as those reproduced by d'Errico?
As you can see, there is a flatter area. But not so flat as to "force" bitten holes to have to end up on that surface. It should be noted that on known bone flutes, almost invariably, the holes are made on the flatter surface -- This was the point made by Edward Schaefer.
Cross-sections of many such bones are in Turk's monograph, and could be scanned and sent. Further, as Otte pointed out, the presumed thumb hole on the opposite side is precisely where flute thumbholes go -- to fit the hand. One other very different point should be made: Turk has assigned "approximately one year" as the age of the bear cub femur. Other paleontologists have indicated that the bone's width is also consistent with a 1.5 or 2 year-old juvenile bear, which would be a much longer femur than shown -- and capable of playing the do-re-mi-fa notes relatively in tune without an extension mouthpiece. These opinions are found in the earlier discussion pages on my website, [in the bottom letter] on:
http://www.greenwych.ca/fl2debat.htm -- B.F.
================================
Rick wrote to Jack, quoting Jack first:
Jack: 'The durn thing is a flute.'
Rick ; That is a matter of opinion? An enormous amount of work is being expended upon this intriguing object and I suspect that some sort of resolution will be reached. Whether or not there are striations that seem to indicate drilling can surely be resolved to all party's satisfaction. And an attempt to identify natural processes that could mimic such a thing can be undertaken. A priori wishing it to be a flute or a priori denying Ns any capacity for producing and appreciating music just doesn't cut it.
As for an Aurignacian object of similar type being readily declared a flute well maybe yes and maybe no. Would depend upon the care the researcher took in analyzing the data. But if a natural object was erroneously declared to be a flute it really would matter little. It is beyond question that AMHs had a whole range of symbolic behaviours and nothing much would hang upon this object. The N flute is entirely another category of meaningfulness. I agree with Ann that Ns probably had a lot of symbolic behaviours but it is, whether Ann or I like it or not, still a live question. The rise of human symbolic behaviour is a topic of enormous importance and the horizon has to be extended back with painstaking care not simply asserted.
=======================================
Jack responds to Rick:
Rick, that's all very well and good but this is a cylindrical bone with four perfect holes drilled (not punched) in perfect alignment and distanced as a whole and half note in a 7 note minor diatonic scale.
Do and Re may be missing but the odds of some carnivore's single tooth consecutively punching a perfectly aligned mi-fa-so-la on one aspect of this bone is about the same as my winning the California Lottery 20 times in a row. Reproduce this with a mouthpiece and you can play it. If it looks like a flute and you can play it like a flute, its a flute. -- Jack
=========================================
Rick replies to Jack:
Well that's the claim. Obviously if the holes are drilled rather than punched it is artificially made. A lot of highly qualified people don't think the evidence is as unambiguous as you do. Why is that? Some will argue rampant Neanderphobia but that's just not on, IMHO. I know of no modern researcher who would cavalierly dismiss evidence of symbolic behaviour in Ns. Might not believe they were capable of it but that's no reason to impugn their intellectual integrity
Quoting Jack: 'Do and Re may be missing but the odds of some carnivore's single tooth consecutively punching a perfectly aligned mi-fa-so-la on one aspect of this bone is about the same as my winning the California Lottery 20 times in a row. Reproduce this with a mouthpiece and you can play it. If it looks like a flute and you can play it like a flute, its a flute.'
Rick: Given the multitude of bones that have been ravaged through the millenia by hyaenas and other scavengers what's the likelihood that - like the chimps with the typewriters - that at least one won't mimic a flute? If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck....this is not a serviceable method of analysis. By this reasoning a mongoose is a weasel. Thing sure looks like a flute. No argument about that. But is it a flute is a whole other question. If you can prove artificail production then you're off to the races. If you can't then nothing either way can be said. Would Ns use natuarally ocurring 'flutes'? Why not? Did they? Impossible to say? Did they have the mental template in place to want to? That's the question.
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Anne wrote to Rick:
Unfortunately, I think you're probably wrong here. I see a lot of intellectual "Neanderphobia" being made respectable by certain interpertations of various recent discoveries, including the "genetic"ones. What it all boils down to, inevitably, is "they looked different, therefore they were different, and the one doesn't necessarily follow the other. To be fair, the "flute" or whatever it is, is likely an ambiguous object which can't be "placed" for the moment, at least until similar objects are found in a Neandertal context. But unfortunately, there are a number of researchers who, regardless of the evidence presented, regard Neandertal abilites for symbolic behavior as essentially nil. -- Anne G
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Ed wrote:
I think that I may as well put in my two cents here, and remind people of my own views that the N's were somewhat inferior to ourselves, having apparently diverged from our line about 500kya (at the time of the second Out of Africa episode), and afterwards not evolved cognitively as fully as ourselves.
So the question becomes one of how much we are asking of our ancestors of 500kya and their non-MHS descenants that they should be able to make and play flutes? The gut answer that I get is not that much. The foundation of our modern abstracting abilities had to be largely in place even 500kya. So it is possible that musical appreciation goes back at least that far, and with it possibly also the desire and ability to make musical instruments.
Of course, without a 500ky old flute in someone's hand, I have no supporting evidence for this conjecture.
My overall conclusion is that we should be careful about things in this regard. As Richard notes, we cannot without evidence assume the existance of large scale symbolic thought in our ancestors or in other homonids. However, we cannot totally discount it either. Instead, we need to acknowledge the development of modern cognition as a process, and see where the relevant evidence takes us.
EMS
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Dan wrote, quoting Bob first:
.
Quoting Bob: ‘Here in the "sticks" it's hard to find a lot of sources. Library budget cutbacks, et al. Is there any way you can e-mail, fax or snail mail to me the pics you refer to above?'
.
Dan: Good point Bob - I should have picked it up sooner. This weekend I'll scan in the pictures from Albrecht et al as well as the illustrations of the Isturitz flutes and I'll (post them).
.
Quoting Bob: ‘You very cleverly addressed my analogy of the smoking gun -- but you also did what d'Errico did not do: Address the prima facie evidence regarding the bone.'
Dan: To get back to the analogy - an ice pick and a bullet wound may look (for the sake of argument) similar on first inspection but there are telltale signs (powder burns, wound trauma, etc.) that an expert who examines the wounds in detail (after years of studying large reference samples) can pick up on and deduce the [facts].
.
Quoting Bob: ‘I recognize that "evidence" and "probability" is not the same as "proof." So the matter will always remain ambiguous to one degree or another -- and you have made a better case for greater ambiguity than I would have expected. But I still don't accept the "looks-like-a-flute" evidence as merely an "argument from disbelief." To me it is positive prima facie evidence.'
.
Dan: OK - I'll try another analogy (these are quite easy to pick from the 'cranks' theories). The Face on Mars - at a crude resolution this did resemble a face and although the suspicion that it was a natural artefact lingered it wasn't until a more detailed study was done did the true nature of the 'face' become apparent.
.
D'Errico addresses this in:
d'Errico, F. & Vanhaeren, M. (1999) Les méthodes d'analyse de l'art mobilier paléolithique. Quelques exemples issus de la région cantabrique. Anthropologie et Préhistoire. 110. 31 - 45.
where he examines a number of objects found in Palaeolithic sites which have been claimed as being artificial produced. After detailed (including SEM) analysis he rejects both a Mousterian 'whistle' (which are pretty common) as well as a number of Upper Palaeolithic artifacts (Magdelanian and Solutrian) and he concludes (my paraphrase from p. 41) that morphology and size are not sufficient criteria to allow these pieces to included with other symbolic artifacts.
The ‘looks like a flute' argument as presented by Otte is an argument by disbelief - it looks so much like a flute I can't believe it isn't.
Quoting Bob: ‘ Further, I looked up Turk's photos and found a cross section of the femur -- and while the "flat" area is there, it is very subtle in its flatness -- the bone is virtually round. I will send a 2nd e-mail after this one with a scan-in of the cross-section, for those who can receive images.'
.
Dan: OK I can see it here so I'll have a look at it next.... From my (albeit limited) knowledge of animal bones I wasn't expecting the bone to be very flat but any kind of irregularity will throw of your analysis of probability.
.
Quoting Bob: ‘And what still remains about this is the huge number of untouched bones in that cave, while this one bone gets so much so-called "random" attention -- AND with such clean (no secondary gnawing marks near and around the holes) punctures. So if flatness somewhat reduces the odds against a line-up, equal diameters and matching a unique musical scale pattern -- this bone's over-bitten attention moves the odds way back up again.'
.
Dan: I can only say that these things do happen (this is taking into account the fact that less obvious or striking holes haven't just been overlooked).
Quoting Bob: ‘(Also, overlooked in your reply on the analogy -- just to waste a paragraph on trivia -- the analogy-detective d'Errico had only a PHOTOGRAPH of the ice-pick victims -- not the ACTUAL bodies with holes in them -- thus the explanation that the guy with the smoking gun had just chased off the ice-pick killers is a good try -- but unconvincing.)'
.
Dan: He would have probably still have been able to pick up certain details from relatively detailed photos e.g. an ice pick would have to be withdrawn from the wound perhaps pulling the edges of the clothing outwards (see a lot of archaeologists are frustrated forensics officers and vice versa).
.
Quoting Bob: ‘But, leaving that analogy behind, what is still unconvincing to me is the choice d'Errico made:
'He had two sets of evidence. The prima facie evidence (looks like a flute, same diameters, in line, et al) and his comparative evidence of naturally formed holes that look like the holes in the N-bone.
'Even granting your argument about flatness, my opinion (though I'm not an archeologist expert) is that, if one of these two sets of evidence must be dismissed because they are in conflict -- regarding what conclusion to draw -- the MOST probable evidence is the prima facie evidence.
‘It's more logical and true to scientific thought [to me] to dismiss the comparative evidence. Put another way, the comparative evidence is not direct evidence, and has far less measurable probability of being true than does the prima facie evidence -- except for the motivated politic as expressed in RGB's letter, and that the direct prima facie evidence is not a cherished "taphonomic" type of evidence.'
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Dan: The acceptable form of evidence is the detailed analytical evidence - this is the evidence which would 'stand up in court'. A personal analogy is required. A serial sex offender once escaped from a secure institution only a few miles from me and he bore a striking resemblance to me. Now if I'd been picked up by the police for questioning (thankfully they caught the guy quickly) I would hope that the most believable evidence wouldn't be a resemblance (same height, build, hair colour, etc.) but fingerprint and blood/DNA tests which would have seen me walk free quite quickly. I'm a scientist - the resemblance is only a good starting point for an investigation and shouldn't be seen as the main evidence.
.
Quoting Bob: ‘ Please add to that point that there is conflicting interpretations regarding the markings of the holes (Turk's & Blackwell's "striations" showing holes consistent with being made with a flake). This taphonomic dispute among competent taphonomicites(?) further weakens d'Errico's comparative evidence.'
.
Dan: And from where I stand there are two lines of attack against the 'not a flute' verdict. Neither of them are the "it looks like a flute" (ILLAF) argument as it cuts no ice with me or the majority of the archaeological community. They are:
1. Reexamining the bone and showing with reference to appropriate naturally and artificially produced objects that the holes are clearly artificial or at worst equivocal (if it turns out to be equivocal then the ILLAF does have some bearing).
2. Your line of attack which is to show that the alignment and spacing are so unlikely that the parsimonious explanation is that they must be man made. I'm sure some statistical guy would jump at the chance to produce some complex model which could take into account the cross-sectional morphology of the bone.
If one or both lines of attack were successful it would certainly win people like myself (who are open minded but skeptical of this specific object) around.
.
Quoting Bob: ‘But as said, I am very open to looking at any pics I can get hold of beyond what I have in the d'Errico's article (a copy of which I do have). Are these Albrecht photos the same as those reproduced by d'Errico?'
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Dan: No not as far as I'm aware. Luckily the pictures I'm preparing over the weekend are line drawings and should scan in well even from my photocopies (I should have thought about this when I had the originals).
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THE CASE of the
MYSTERIOUS "RECLASSIFIED?" FLUTES
 
Anne wrote to Dan:
I just looked at the "bone" pictures you uploaded. I can't say they are either convincing or unconvincing as far as deciding whether the Divje Babe object is a flute or something that's just been chewed at, but I want to take the opportunity to thank you for attempting to shed whatever light is available on this matter.
I also want to take the opportunity to invite anyone who has material of interest to upload it to files or links if they wish. New information is always welcomed, and should be shared if at all possible.
Finally, I hope those interested in matters such as the Divje Babe object will take the time to look at the files Dan so kindly shared with us. I hope they will help clarify matters and lead to continuing fruitful discussions.
Again thanks for the pictures, Dan! -- Anne G
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Dan wrote to Anne:
The point wasn't really that the pictures are going to convince people either one way or the other its just that various elements of the pro-flute arguement (like why would only one bone from the site be chewed numerous times) don't stand up in the face of this kind of sample of natural objects.
When I've finished the Isturitz pictures it will be clear where the 'flute' lies i.e. slap bang in the middle of the grey area between naturally occuring pierced objects and artificially produced flutes. This is why the arguement from disbelief doesn't really stand up on its own and also why a detailed analysis like d'Errico's was required.
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Dear Dan:
The first picture of several bones you sent immediately was recognizable -- I have these pics here, but they're not named as "Albrechtetal" items, so I didn't realize I had already had them.
It should be pointed out these are almost all (or all of them) classified already as flutes and it seems to be agreed (or has been agreed for a long time) that they are not natural objects. Or at least the information and pics I have of them in my library has been calling them flutes for many years, including the big jaw bone flute or "horn" at the bottom.
These items were also cited and examined by Turk in his monograph but he used them to show that the Divje Babe bone not only is like these other bona fide flutes of the period, but, as we all know, it looks even more like a flute than any of the flutes depicted in the first group of drawings you posted. Which is why, at first look, Anne visually found even these bones unconvincing as flutes, thinking they were [already established as] natural objects.
The group of pics in the 2nd pic you posted are not readily familiar -- they may also be agreed-on as flutes or not. I'll check my stuff to see if I already have any of these along with captions or a text of their history.
In a short while, I'll send the text I have about several of the bone pics you sent, describing them, etc. I wonder if the classifications of these bones as flutes is now being questioned? Who or what is Albrechetal? Is this a person's name? Or the name of recent material relating itself to the N-bone?
Thanks again very very much for posting these. -- Bob
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Bob wrote:
Dear list:
Here is the text Turk provides for some of the bones' pictures that were posted:
The big jawbone, item #7 at the bottom of the posted pics, in the first Albrechtetal image, is described thus, in part: "PotoCka zijalka, Slovenia: The find originates from upper Aurignacian layers 4 or 5, and is not radiocarbon dated. In our opinion it is slightly younger than the Aurignacian layer 2 in Divje babe I. "It is classified as a flute or pipe (S. Brodar & M. Brodar 1983, pp.157 on; Fig. 57; Hahn & Munzel 1995; Omrzel-Terlep , in this volume)."
Regarding item #6 in the image post: "Istallosko, Hungary: The find is classified as a flute (Vertes 1955, p.124; Horusitzky 1955, pp. 133 on; Soproni 1985, pp. 33 on). According to size, shape and method of production, at least one of the holes on the diaphysis completely matches the example from Divje babe l. There is also a good parallel at our site for the hole with the irregular shape (Fig. 9.15 [in Turk]). The find originates from the upper Aurignacian layer. The radiocarbon age of the layer is 30,900 600 and 31.540 f660 BP. (Alsworth-Jones 1986, p.85)."
Regarding bone #2 in the image post: "Liegloch, Austria: The tibia of a juvenile cave bear was found, which has 4 holes in a zigzag distribution. The method of production and exact measurements are unknown to us. The centre-centre distance of the distal holes approximate to the centre-centre distance of the holes of the suspected flute from Divje babe I (judging from drawings). The site is dated to the Aurignacian (conditionally?), and the bone with holes is without good stratigraphic data, so that more precise dating is not possible (Mottl 1950, pp. 22 on, Pl. l:10)."
These are the only matches to Turk's citations, accepted as flutes, at least prior to the Divje babe find. The other bones are new to me at first glance, or may be pictured somewhere in my piles of home files, but I suspect they are all accepted as flutes or whistles -- at least as artifacts -- because I don't see why would someone mix pic of both artifacts and natural objects in the same collection of bones?
There is more information available on item 7 and 6 (measurements, markings, diameters, et al), if anyone wants more detail. -- Bob
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To all:
Before people continue on discussing the pictures that Dan posted from the Albrecht paper, I urge that my last post, should be carefully reviewed.
It's mistaken to keep referring to these bones as "natural" objects.
My post below provides information that some, if not all, of these bones are actually flutes, and have been classified as such for decades. As a result, my statement still stands, that there are no bones available that resemble the line-up or "coincidences" that are claimed for the large numbere of flute-like features of the Divje babe bone.
Some confusion must have resulted in the translation from the German -- or else Albrecht et al are attempting to now move items that were always considered flutes before into the category of now being natural objects. -- Bob
P.s. The part where Turk indicates that holes (from bona fide flutes of the period) are the same in markings as holes in the Didje babe bone is something I missed for years -- showing that a real flute hole is capable of matching holes in the n-bone -- which has to count as further evidence pointing to the possibility of the n-bone being a flute. See the note on item #6 above where Turk notes the similarities.
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Ed wrote:
I find that intriguing since, with the exception of the Divje Babe object itself, the Albrecht diagrams all show the variations in hole size, placement, and shape that I would expect from natually occurring processes. Only the object with the holes along a zig-zag shows any of the consistency the I would expect from an artifical object, and even then the hole shapes are somewhat inconsistent, and the zig-zag makes it into a very odd and probably uncomfortable flute.
On the other hand, the Isturitz objects are definitely flutes or flute fragments. I am comfortable in classifying the Divje Babe object amongst those objects, with it's appearing to be more primitive than the others. The other objects I cannot consider to be flutes.
=================================
Dan replied:
Bob, I'll admit as you suggest in another post my German isn't the best and so I'll check my interpretation of the paper with those more linguitically blessed than I am (the benefits of having a father who is a retired languages teacher!!). However, I hope I've not misinterpreted the thrust of the article....
The point is (and I'll correct myself later in the week if I'm wrong) that through experimental analysis and a look at natural bones these UP bones, which have just been accepted because they were UP and everyone knows that UP people were capabe of producing such things, are naturally produced. This highlights a fundamental flaw in the reference sample used to assess the authenticity of the Divje Babe object. If these are natural then in fact the resemblance of the 'flute' to them is in fact an argument against it being artificial.
I'll get back to you with more details....
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Dear Dan:
Even if Albrecht has declassified these items as flutes, and even if he is right, there were several other UP flutes that Turks reproduced that more certainly flutes, and which no one questions -- so even minus these three bones we are now debating, the sample offered by Turk is, in my opinion, only reduced somewhat, but not "fundamentally flawed." I'll try to soon upload the images of that sample to the list's folder, so all can judge for themselves.
Under the current circumstances, it might finally simply pay for those of you interested enough to buy a copy of Turk's monograph. It is about $35. There are (at least) two sides to every story as we all know.
See also my most recent post [next, below] replying to Edward. -- Bob
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Dear Edward:
What is at issue at the moment is that the flutes depicted have been and are classified as flutes, unless Albrecht has in his view de-classified them as such. I believe Turk, from his writing, has examined some of these bones first hand before listing them. Turk listed them as flutes in his N-bone monograph in 1997. I agree that if they are flutes, they are not the most convincing flutes, and is one reason Anne found them of little help in forming any new conclusions one way or the other.
However, there are flutes and there are hunting or signaling whistles. Flutes are musical instrumenmts. Whistles can be proto-flutes, but are basically signaling devices, able to warble like a bird, but still communicate to others and do not require either line-ups of holes nor any scale -- even one hole of any size will do.
If Albrecht is now claiming them as natural, he did so in 1998 -- only after the Divje babe flute was found -- which I would find some cause to question -- but on that I'll wait to a later date.
The drawing that Dan posted -- are they his tracings or direct scans from Albrecht? The drawings published by Turk are far more exact and detailed, and different in fair degrees, including showing marks around the holes. But whichever one might choose to consider, only photographs of the actual objects, in the end, would be worth making conjectures about, for both you and me. I'll try to scan in the Turk versions soon.
I'll choose not to make conjectures at this point, until we can resolve what Albrecht et al is actually saying about them -- i.e., whether he claims they are artificial or natural. We'll wait for Dan's dad on that.
But for the sake of completeness, here are more details about items #6 and #7 in Dan's image-post, something you and Dan will be better able to read and understand than me:
#6: (This is the one Turk mentions parallels the Divje babe flute.)
"In the diaphysis of the femur of a juvenile cave bear, which has a cut end, and from which the spongiose has been removed, there are three holes. According to statements by Vertes (1955) on the proximal end of the anterior side of the diaphysis, a hole has been bored with a diameter of 6mm. Thc hole has a pronounccd conical shape. The diameter of a shallow funnel with radially disposed grooves is 17 mm (Vertes 1955 p.124, Pl. 43: 1 a-c).
"Judging from the published photographs, the hole has not been bored but hollowed or chiselled. There is also a cone visible on the internal wall. That suggests that the hole was punched. A grooved funnel suggests that the original, pierced hole could have been additionally worked by rodents on the outside (cf. Cavallo et al. 1991, Fig. 17 E). On the same side, there is a distally bored (Vertes's statement) irregular hole with a diameter of 10 - 13 mm. It is clearly visible on the photograph that this hole has been punched or pierced. The centre-centre distance between two holes is 65 mm (assessed on the basis of photographs).
"The third hole is lightly oval with a diameter of 7mm and is situated in the centre of the posterior side of the diaphysis. Vertes does not say how it is made. Judging from the photograph, it was punched or pierced. It is interesting that Horusitzky (1955, p.133) gives slightly different measurements for the holes: 5.5, 6 and 11 mm."
#7: This is the jaw-bone flute.
"The mandible of a sub-adult or adult cave bear, which has three holes, punched or pierced into the nerve cavity on the lingual side of the body, is a unique find. The rims of the holes are of irregular shape when examined closely, made up of arcs and straighter cuts. The first hole - counting from the foramen mandibulae - has an inwards winding fragment of the surface on the edge, which may have been made during the punching or piercing. We ascertained by experiment that the small parts of the edges of holes can lift during the passage of the point of the hole puncher (tooth) and later crumble or wind inwards.
"Alveolarly between the first and second holes is a pronounced triangular hollow which may have been made by a protoconid or paracon carnassial. Below the second hole is a long narrow silex cut. Below the third hole and to the left and right of it are typical wide tooth marks on the body. A very strong cut starts right under the hole and ends below the lower edge of the mandible. There are also similar cuts on the other side, between the first and second holes. The ramus mandibulae is freshly broken. The diameters of the holes are, 5 - 6, 5 and 5 mm. The centre-centre distances are 19 and 24 mm. The centre-centre distance between the first hole and the extended jaw opening is I7 mm."
On the zig-zag flute, I sent all that I had on that. [Afternote: It's really hard to believe (whether a flute or other thing) that such an geometrically orderly arrangement of zig-zag holes can be, yet again, "naturally formed" -- against all odds, and without any apparent analysis or explanation of that order]
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Anne wrote to Dan:
I'm glad you've made the above point, as it's important to keep in mind. Again, whether the Divje Babe object proves ultimately to be natural or produced artificially, we should remember that not all objects found in a UP context are artificually produced, no matter what early AMH were or were not capable of, nor are all non-stone objects found in an MP or Neandertal context necessarily naturally produced. IOW, we should strive to apply the same standards of judgment to both types. -- Anne G
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Ed wrote, quoting Bob:
Quoting Bob: ‘What is at issue at the moment is that the flutes depicted have been and are classified as flutes, unless Albrecht has in his view de-classified them as such....'
Ed: Saying that they are classified as flutes does not make them flutes. However, I am certainly willing to consider them as possibly being flutes.
Quoting Bob: ‘I agree that if they are flutes, they are not the most convincing flutes, and is one reason Anne found them of little help in forming any new conclusions one way or the other.'
Ed: I must admit to being quicker to judge them, and that my amateur opinions are not conclusive at all. However, I do caution you that most of the Albrect objects speak "natural" to me.
Quoting Bob: ‘However, there are flutes and there are hunting or signaling whistles. Flutes are musical instrumenmts. Whistles can be proto-flutes, but are basically signaling devices, able to warble like a bird, but still communicate to others and do not require either line-ups of holes nor any scale -- even one hole of any size will do....'
Ed: That is possible. However, we all must be careful that we are not seeing something because we want to see it.
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Anne asked:
How does one go about getting the Turk monograph?
Reply by Bob
Try to e-mail:
Turk@alpha.zrc-sazu.si
for information or for an order form for the book, titled: Mousterian Bone Flute, Ed: Ivan Turk,
Znanstvenoraziskovalni Center Sazu, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 1997)
==========================================
Dear Dan:
I uploaded the page of flutes used by Turk as a sample of UP flutes that are comparable to the Divje babe flute.
Three of them match the first set of drawings (Albrecht, et al) of flutes you uploaded earlier. [The three are shown at the lower left corner; upper right corner and just below that one is the jawbone.]
You can see the difference as well regarding the greater detail of the drawings in Turk, but what, if any, significance that has to the discussion, I can't say.
Was your dad able to confirm whether or not Albrecht et al have now reclassified these three flutes as natural objects?
And if they have re-classified them, was any analysis offered or referenced as to what caused them to re-classify?
I'd be most interested to know if the geometrical/symmetrical orderly arrangement of holes on the Jaw-bone flute and the zig-zag bone were addressed by Albrecht et al, or whether this matter, like the Divje babe bone, has been implied as "coincidence" again?
The significance of this is that if these bones are not re-classified, and remain considered as flutes, then there are no naturally-formed bones known that resemble the Divje babe flute in terms of features like several or 4 holes lined up, similar diameters, possible 5th thumb-hole, matching a known scale and so on.
The only way that any bones can be claimed to resemble the Divje babe bone regarding these properties would be if these (jaw bone & zig-zag bone) were re-classified as "naturally formed" objects.
Hoping to hear from you as soon as convenient for you. -- Bob
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Debate on hold at this point.
While awaiting an answer about whether these flutes have been re-classified, why and by whom, here are some interim thoughts about the significance of this and of the points made above.
 
What of these bones being "natural"?
Ed wrote the bones speak "natural" to him.
Two of them shouldn't, though. Not if he's willing to admit the Divje babe bone into the collection of the other flute images that Dan posted.
The holes and cuts in the Jaw bone and the zig-zag bone [those would be the zig-zag 4-hole bone (#6), and the jaw-bone (#7), as shown in the posted images] are like the Divje babe bone, they are lined up in what appears to be a design, not random-looking placement. Whether a flute or other artifact, these two don't speak "natural" to me.
Consider this: Unearth an old broken lump of clay, and the scratches and cuts on it look clearly like " E D."
"Hey, that's my name," says Ed.
But he & I will agree, there is no serious reason to believe this couldn't have happened by random chance. The odds aren't that great against it.
But what if the scratches look clearly like "E D W A R D"? Well, I'd then begin to stop hearing this clay speak "natural" to me. It COULD be chance (ANYthing "could" be -- even human intelligent existence could be by chance) -- but it's far less likely now. And if among a handful of other lumps of clay, I amazingly find one more, which says "ROBERT" -- I'm supposed to call them "natural," and pass off their literary features as coincidence?? Just because its "E" looks like the "E" formed in the shorter "natural" clay lump of "E D"?
If I can paraphrase Ed with a slight change: "We all must be careful that we are failing to see something just because we don't want to see it." I realize that far more exquisite and complex designs exist in nature -- for ex., in flowers. The Sunflower has a spiral design that even draftspeople would envy. But these are genetically-coded -- not random added designs.
The jaw bone and the zig-zag bone are like the N-bone in that the odds for random production of such a geometrical, symmetrical, orderly row of holes in each of them are similar in all three bones. The Albrecht ones aren't as convincing as flutes, but they don't look natural either.
To me the question is limited to this: Flute or other artifact?
Just for the hell of it, let's very roughly, ad hoc, calculate again -- If the bones depicted in the posted images really were "naturally" formed objects after all, then we'd be looking at -- including the Divje babe N-bone -- NOT one, but THREE bones, each of which have similar slim odds [of up to one in 15 million] to have been created by nature's conjuring.
For sake of argument -- that from among even 100,000 indisputable naturally-punctured bones from the paleolithic era [and we don't have nearly that many, do we?], that we would have found three such miracles, would be a matter of chance so infinitesimal that you're looking at something that is a virtual impossibility. Like finding three people with identical sets of fingerprints -- or three snowflakes with identical designs -- after looking at only several thousand cases!!!
It may be "possible" semantically, but it has never happened, nor is there any practical probability that it will ever really happen in the entire history of humankind, from now to whenever. The odds are too great to entertain this thought as conclusive or rational, in my opinion.
Re-classifying these bones as natural [if that's what Albrecht et al have done] -- or saying, of their holes' design: "such things happen" -- is not analysis!! It's merely assertion and blind denial. [It reminds me of governments, when embarrassed about so many poor people, rather than improve the incomes of the poor, they lower the definition of poverty, so that no one is any longer below the newly "re-classified" poverty line.]
It may be "technically possible" mathematically that they are chance bones, but the odds of three such accidental flutes [in a 100,000 sample] can be a number so large that there is no name for it (googillion? godzillion?), about equal to the number of molecules in the entire expanding universe. After all, what is one chance in: 15 million times 15 million times 15 million -- equal to? That's a figure with 18 zeros!!!
Even dividing by the 100,000 bones we might (but don't) have containing *indisputable* natural holes, and very few of them have 3 or more holes in them with the same diameters, that's still a figure with 13 zeros!!! [2,250,000,000,000,000 or 1 chance in over two thousand trillion that we'd have found three of them.]
Arguments that poo-poo these odds as not being "evidence" or not worth considering or checking out as a major part of the reckoning about these bones; or arguments that claim these odds are "wishful thinking" or "such things happen" or "startling coincidence" -- leave the realm of what is known as scientific logic behind, and enter into the realm of guild-like turf protection -- .i.e., musicologists and math analyists not to be seriously respected as partners.
I knew that most people, including archeologists and anthropologists, are numerico-phobes (eyes glaze over when the science of even simple math is invoked) but this seems to me to have become a really serious general problem among archaeologists, as I'm slowly realizing. Has the archeological field has been too cloistered for too long? Are methodological inbreeding problems emerging?
Forensics is the only the best evidence when it is undisputed -- or when it is confirmed by evidence from other disciplines. But other disciplines' evidence are never "really" admissible anymore, it seems. Or maybe, is the problem just limited to this particular Neanderthal Flute?
Anne wrote a few times that only the finding of more flutes like the Divje babe flute will resolve the dispute on that issue. This is an idea I've meant to address:
The population of Neanderthals never was very large; further, most flutes, due to convenience, tend to be made of wood, except under rare circumstances. The chances of finding a wooden Neanderthal flute is nil because wood would have long since decayed. The chances of finding a second rare bone flute, because of the small Neanderthal population, makes further finds a far less than hopeful matter. The one bone found could have been made using bone because it may have been like a more permanent template -- a "ruler" -- designed to preserve the unequal and unique hole spacings that, when copied onto a longer wood flute, would produce satisfactory sounds. [Two such tetracord sets of these 4 unique and not equally-spaced holes can make a full diatonic scale.]
New evidence will likely not be forthcoming. Therefore, I feel this bone needs to be resolved among the paleo/anth community on its own terms, if resolvable at all.
And if that will happen, what must be first is that archeologists have to overcome their pathologically math-shy numerico-phobia and realize that simple statistics are a scientific tool, not "wishful thinking," as one writer mentioned (Rick?), or a tool of charlatans, or some kind of evil sorcery, and thus eschew the parochialism that makes them insist that *only* taphonomic evidence is the best evidence. In this case, it is math naivety that fails to recognize the actually calculated sheer cosmic size of the "coincidence" they are embracing, which makes embracing it look to me like theological superstition.
Dan wrote earlier:
"A personal analogy is required. A serial sex offender once escaped from a secure institution only a few miles from me and he bore a striking resemblance to me. Now if I'd been picked up by the police for questioning (thankfully they caught the guy quickly) I would hope that the most believable evidence wouldn't be a resemblance (same height, build, hair colour, etc.) but fingerprint and blood/DNA tests which would have seen me walk free quite quickly. I'm a scientist - the resemblance is only a good starting point for an investigation and shouldn't be seen as the main evidence."
But, au contraire: -- Dan was "thankful," because he knows the most believable evidence IS resemblance. He and I both know in the overwhelming majority of "looks-like-the-crooks" cases, when the other tests are done, the additional tests invariably confirm that the "looks" were right, and were reliable evidence.
Dan's case was the unusual one, the kind they make movies about. In real life, when the guy threatens his wife in front of a group, sends death notes to the victim; signs them; and then when the victim is found dead by a bullet from the guy's gun; buried in his basement, and the guy is now spending all her insurance and inheritance money -- there is no cop who says "I have a hunch he was framed!!" Only in Hitchcock movies are such cops still on the payroll.
Thus, the greatest probability is on the side of what Dan calls the prima facia "starting point" of evidence. But -- Lacking agreement by the taphonomic experts, Dan is forsaking his own views, and *not* taking his own advice, which would be to use the "starting-point evidence" as the remaining most probable evidence. It's actually treated as a "non"-starter. It is being dismissed by several people as "these things do happen," i.e., "coincidence."
God forbid a mathematical view could rival a confused bunch of disagreeing forensic taphono-mystics. [Hey! Be more respectful of math-probability and I'll not poke at taphonomy.] :o}
And once the size of the invoked coincidence is really grasped, if that ever happens, they'll finally face up to the "evidence of the odds" ["Chariodds of the Gods"?] that have been calculated against this N-bone being a natural object. And all will come to a rational, logical conclusion (as, naturally, I have always done and always do). :0)
The problem is not just the Neanderthal's status controversy, but also the almost blind resistance to statistics as an archeological tool, at least in this case. This may more of an issue in some respects than the interpretation of the bone itself. It's not that they can't understand the math -- it's elementary if one is just willing to look at it. It's using it as a tool that's at issue.
And then there's the matter of so many with such strong views who seemingly haven't read anything of the Turk viewppoint and analysis first-hand.
Well, I can lead a horse to water, but I can't.....etc.
--Bob Fink
....No doubt to be continued

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RELATED MATERIAL:
* Origin of Music
* Harmony in Ancient Music
* Natural Basis to Scale
* 4o,ooo Year-Old Neanderthal Flute Matches Notes in Do, Re, Mi Scale --by Bob Fink
* Oldest Song in the World
* The Nature of Ethnomusicology
 
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