Research ArticleANTHROPOLOGY

First record of the sound produced by the oldest Upper Paleolithic seashell horn

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Science Advances  10 Feb 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 7, eabe9510
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe9510
  • Fig. 1 Marine shell of Charonia lampas from Marsoulas cave (France).

    (A) Side view. (B) Front view and naming of the anatomical areas. (C) Vestiges of red pigment preserved on the columella (image enhanced with Dstretch-rgb0). (D) Tracing of red dots and lines visible on the enhanced photo. Very similar red dots, produced with the fingertips, are present on the walls of the cave. (5) Set of red dots forming a bison silhouette (length, 1.10 m). (6) Geometric sign formed by a double line of dots. [Photos (A to C, E, and F): C. Fritz; drawing (D): G. Tosello.]

  • Fig. 2 The Charonia shell bears the traces of important modifications of human origin.

    (A) Elimination of the labrum (outer lip) by series of strokes. (B) Opening of the apex by destruction of the first six spires. (C) In top view, the chipped edge of the mouth indicates a summary work. (D) A deposit of brownish organic matter covers the fractured edge of the apex. [Photos (A to D): C. Fritz.]

  • Fig. 3 The Charonia, wind instrument.

    (A) Sagittal section of the three-dimensional (3D) model of the shell that makes it possible to visualize the hole drilled at the level of the sixth spire (after opening the apex; see Fig. 2), probably to introduce a tube to facilitate the fitting of a mouthpiece. (B) Detail of the circular perforation drilled from the apex. The streaks on the edge are due to a skidding tool. (C) Top view of the 3D model showing the perforation. (D) Three-dimensional (3D) cross section at the level of the seventh spire. (E) The conch of Marsoulas in its Magdalenian context (hypothetical restitution). (F) Conch from Southeast Asia, the mouth of which is covered with a black coating, intended to protect the lips of the blower. (G and H) Conch from Syria and detail of its chipped mouth, close to that of Marsoulas. (I and J) Conch from New Zealand and its mouthpiece made of a decorated bone tube. [3D model captures (A to D): C. Fritz; drawing (E): G. Tosello; photos (F to J): Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac/E. Kasarhérou.]

  • Fig. 4 Spectral analysis of the sounds produced by the conch of Marsoulas.

    (A) Note 1 (F0 = 256 Hz). (B) Note 2 (F0 = 265 Hz). (C) Note 3 (F0 = 285 Hz). [Diagram: J. Tardieu and P. Gaillard.]

Supplementary Materials

  • Supplementary Materials

    First record of the sound produced by the oldest Upper Paleolithic seashell horn

    C. Fritz, G. Tosello, G. Fleury, E. Kasarhérou, Ph. Walter, F. Duranthon, P. Gaillard, J. Tardieu

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