Art & Music around 40,000 BC

The Globe

The multiple ways in which Homo spaiens diverged physically and behaviorally from pre-sapiens forms of Homo in the period between about 300,000 years ago to 30,000 years ago are collectively referred to as the "Middle/Upper Paleolithic transition." This "transition" is visible in many radical changes, such as increased aesthetic expression in figurines, usually of bone or stone, beautiful wall paintings, and rock carvings, burial techniques, and objects used for personal adornment, and the appearance of articfact styles and trade in exotic items that bespeak the first manifestation of some sort of regional "ethinic" identity that exceeds by a wide margin the local band society--in short, changes that may reflect the "total restructuring" of social relationships.(Patterns in Prehistory)


Ostrich eggshell bead making started between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago. Yet the art that we call representational imagery dates back to only 30,000 and 40,000 years ago. (Before the Pharaohs)

Southwest Asia




Indus Valley





Tools and tool types of the Aurignacian culture displayed standardization. Over time, they included end scrapers for preparing animal skins and burins for engraving. Flint tools were made from blades of stone rather than flakes. Projectile points (for hunting) were made from antler, bone, and ivory. Among their significant innovations was the development of body ornamentation, including pierced shells, animal teeth, carved bone pendants, bracelets, and ivory beads. The sudden explosion of exquisite art found at the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc cave was certainly among their most striking achievements. (Before the Pharaohs)

British archaeologist Paul Devereux recently made a truly awesome discovery about Paleolithic caves. He has shown that more than just visual art and ritual was going on in these caves; music was also being played in them. Devereux studied the acoustical properties of Paleolithic caves that were used forty thousand to twelve thousand years ago. Key Paleolithic caves have various red ochre and black dots, lines, and symbols that many people have wondered about. Devereux discovered that these crude symbols mark the acoustical properties of stalactites and stalagmites, as if the stalactites and stalagmites are vaulted acoustical pipes, similar to a pipe organ. The marks indicate which stalactites and stalagmites to strike to produce various tones within the caves. Devereux calls these stalactites and stalagmites lithophones. (The Mayan Code)

Equally interesting is the emergence of music. The first unequivocal evidence of human musical activity, in the form of a pipe made from a swan's bone dating from around 39 kya, was found at [a cave] in Germany. More than 20 similar carefully crafted pipes, from the Aurignacian to Magdalenian periods, have been found at the Isturitz Cave in southwest France. Some of these pipes were apparently designed to be played two-handed, and have chamfered holes to maximise acoustic efficiency. They appear also to be polished by frequent use. (Climate Change in Prehistory)

The two jewelry pieces—a ring carved from marble and a bracelet made from a polished green stone known as chlorite—are of a type previously only associated with the complex symbolic abilities and technological skill set of anatomically modern humans, so the first assumption was that the ring and bracelet must have been the work of the cave’s later Homo sapiens occupants. Much to the surprise of the researchers, however, further investigation ruled out any possibility that anatomically modern humans had created these remarkable pieces. A Denisovan bone was found alongside the items of jewelry and the soil in which they were embedded was dated with oxygen isotopic analysis to 40,000 years ago. Derevyanko in due course declared himself completely satisfied that the discovery was made deep within the cave’s “Denisovan layers [which] were uncontaminated by human activity from a later period.” Amazingly, the skill involved in making this adornment shows a level of technique at least thirty thousand years ahead of its time … What is incredible is that the craftsman who made the adornment seems to have used something similar to a modern drill. (Magicians of the Gods)

South America




North America



In its issue of October 8, 2014, the prestigious academic journal Nature reported, in a tone of astonishment, that elaborate, sophisticated cave paintings had been found on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi with a minimum age of 39,900 years, making this art as old, or older, than anything comparable ever found in Europe—previously considered to be the exclusive home of such early, advanced symbolic behavior. (Magicians of the Gods)