February 2021
Vol 7, Issue 7

About The Cover

Cover image expansion

ONLINE COVER In 1931, a conch shell was found in the cave of Marsoulas, nestled in the foothills of the French Pyrenees. The discoverers initially suspected the shell served as a ceremonial drinking cup and noted no discernable modifications by human hands. But after looking at the shell with fresh eyes—and advanced imaging techniques—Fritz et al. determined that it was actually modified by the cave's Magdalenian occupants to serve as a wind instrument. The researchers determined that these ancient craftspeople had carefully modified the shell to install a mouthpiece, removed the outermost edges of the shell's labrum (the flared ridge that extends outward from the shell's main opening), and adorned the exterior of the shell with ochre-red pigment designs that match the style of wall art found inside Marsoulas cave. They concluded that the specimen is the earliest conch shell horn yet known. Fritz and colleagues enlisted the help of a musicologist who specializes in wind instruments, who was able to reproduce the sound of the horn in three distinct notes that nearly matched the tones of C, D, and C sharp in modern musical nomenclature.[CREDIT: FRITZ ET AL/SCIENCE ADVANCES]