In 2008 fragments of flutes made from mammoth tusks were found in caves in Germany. In one of those caves a broken flute in 12 pieces was found made from the wing bone of a vulture. They are calling it the Ice Age flute and saying it came from the first peoples that came to Europe 35,000 to 40,000 years ago.
A four holed flute made from a femur bone of a bear was found in a cave in France.
Flutes have been found in tombs in Egypt and depicted on pyramid walls.
Clay flutes and whistles have been dug up in the cornfields of the Mayan peoples of Guatemala.
Here is an old whistle from Mayan Guatemala during the times of the Spanish arrival. The artist was brilliant and on the carved side he made a Mayan head and tuning it upside down he carved a Spanish head.
From Africa to Asia the flute has left its mark.
About 10 years ago flutes made from the wing bones of ancient cranes were discovered in China.
One can discern by the reflecting light in the picture that the bones were very thin. And thus must have been played like the Andean Quena. Blown over the thin wall. One of those flutes (number 2 from top) had 5 holes and tuned like the 7th century Japanese Shakuhachi which tuning is found later in the Native American Kiowa Love Flute. The pentatonic scale played with rhythm sounds like Andean music. Did somebody have a flute when they crossed the Bearing Straights?
One wonders if the ancient Jiaju Crane flute made from the wing bone of ancient cranes may have come from an Ancient Chinese Restaurant.
Clay pan pipes and human bone quenas were found in the Andes.
We also find double flutes depicted on ancient Greek vases.
Where did the first flute come from?
Was it someone's hands being blown into on a cold night in a cave?
Was it made from the clay of that cave?
Was it from a bone after a meal?
Was it first a whistle? Was it a Bamboo Flute? An end blown flute? Side blown? A Pan Pipe?
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind. But here are some of my thoughts.
In Ezekiel 28:13-19 in the Bible, it looks like the leading cherub of worship (who later had some real problems), was created with tambourines and pipes built into him. The workmanship of thy tabrets (Tambourines) and pipes was prepared in thee in the day which thou wast created. So music and flutes existed in a spirt realm before they got here. I have spoken to two people who have seen angels playing side blown and end blown flutes.
We also find in Genesis 4:21 that Jubal (the 7th generation after Adam and Eve) was the father of the Lyre, a harp and the Ugab a Shepherd’s flute). Shepherds had a lot of time in the field and that's where King David learned to play his harp.
Aside from divine inspiration, we also see flutes in nature.
I have found coconut seeds with an open hole which can make sound. This would have brought the ocarina to tropical lands. And eventually the side blown flute into bamboo lands.
Here’s a thought. You live in a cave and it's winter. The fire is low and you are blowing warm air into your hands to keep them warm and you suddenly notice some fun sounds. Soon the bone you are eating from, becomes a musical toy as you try to make sound too. Soon you are holding a primitive whistle.
When cave dwellers moved into a cave, the best one had water. Clay helped to make that water into a reservoir and soon that clay made cups and bowls. From the discovery of sound coming out of a a cupped hand a clay whistle would soon have come. Making it longer would become a flute.
I suspect the earliest flutes were ocarinas made of clay.
The one on the left is stone made by water.
Below is a picture of two Andean Quenas one made by an Ecuadoran Indian and the rustic one made by nature herself and found by my son Josiah during a bamboo harvest in 2001 in Florida. When the old bamboo fell to the ground it became the home of bull ants which made holes in it.
One of the holes broke in half and created the Quena mouthpiece notch. Notice that the mouthpieces are almost identical.
Here is another natural end blown mouthpiece next to a worked one.
Notice above that even the back hole is there.
Next we see a panpipe made by a Peruvian maker next to one of nature's own. A panpipe made from the Mud Dobber wasp which actually can make sound. Panpipes are played on every continent in the world. And are said to have been around for 4000 years. In the old Inca empire, Pan Pipes were used to send messages along the mountain plateaus.
Above is an old bone flute found in 6th century BC near the Dead Sea in Israel.
I have seen a bamboo culm growing in a grove with a perfect blow hole on it made by a bee.
I can imagine a scenario where wind is passing by a “natural bamboo flute” and a nearby tribe being spooked by its haunting sound until a visiting kid from the next village finds it playing in the wind. He stares at the blow hole, gets the idea to blow it and pulls the flute down and starts playing. Soon everybody in the tribe wants one and the flutes get perfected.
From the shepherds pipe or flute, I guess we branch off and get the side blown Fife. And also found in China 3000 years ago. From the shepherds flute, which must have been like the end blown Pennywhistle we see the flute evolve into the Recorder. The fife went on to get larger and deeper with more keys. In the second half of the seventeenth century French flutemaker Jacques Hotteterre modeled and improved many of the woodwinds of his day. Then came the amazing Boehm flute in 1847, which is the father of the modern flute. Theobald Boehm (1794-1881) was a Bavarian flute virtuoso who played at the royal court in Munich, Germany and changed the world with his concert silver flute.
Alas, welcome to my office where you will find Bamboo Flutes from different cultures and the very cool Bamboo Sax.
Erik the Flutemaker
14701 SW 18th Court
Davie, FL 33325