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Ancient shell horn can still play a tune after 18,000 years

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON (AP) — A large conch shell overlooked in a museum for decades is now thought to be the oldest known seashell instrument — and it still works, producing a deep, plaintive bleat, like a foghorn from the distant past.

The shell was found during the 1931 excavation of a cave with prehistoric wall paintings in the French Pyrenees and assumed to be a ceremonial drinking cup. Archaeologists from the University of Toulouse recently took a fresh look and determined it had been modified thousands of years ago to serve as a wind instrument. They invited a French horn player to play it.

“Hearing it for the first time, for me it was a big emotion — and a big stress,” said archaeologist Carole Fritz.

She feared that playing the 12-inch (31-centimeter) shell might damage it, but it didn’t. The horn produced clear C, C sharp and D notes.

Courtesy: AP News

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