Sound Sample Played on a Paleolithic Instrument Replica

A group of French researchers published their study of a conch shell from the Upper Paleolithic period based on an assumption that it was used as a musical instrument. The article includes a sound sample gained by blowing into it—the first such sample published.

The conch shell in question, a Charonia lampas—a handsome marine mollusk—was found already in 1931 at the cave of Marsoulas, which is a so-called decorated cave. The shell is dated to roughly 16,000 BCE. And, interestingly, the shell was not only modified—presumably to make it fit a human mouth more easily—but also decorated with traces of colors and engravings.

Science Advances Conch Shell Horn Sm

The color is mostly found in fingerprint-sized and -shaped red dots on the internal surface of the shell. They are similar to motifs present on the cave walls, including a bison covered with a layer of red dots (seen in the background of the image above).

Aren’t the dot decorations fascinating? Apparently, similar conch shells have been used around the world as musical instruments in later periods, with similar modifications. Also, the oldest known flutes discovered thus far come from earlier paleolithic periods, roughly 40,000-20,000 years BCE, so the the concept of horn or flute should have been known. It certainly would make sense, then, that this shell was a horn.

You can hear the sound by downloading an audio file attached to the article.

Fritz, C. et al. “First record of the sound produced by the oldest Upper Paleolithic seashell horn” in Science Advances, Vol 7, Issue 7 (10 February 2021). https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abe9510

Image by G. Tosello via Science Advances

An occasional feature on music and sound-related notions.

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Living Vicariously Through Social Media: Sandy Pyrenees

Now that it’s cold again in the northern hemisphere, it doesn’t feel wrong to post about this phenomemon.

I discovered that in March 2022, storms in Sahara threw a lot of dust into the atmosphere, and winds carried it hundreds of miles away. Here’s a photo from a ski resort in the French Pyrenees, where the slopes were covered with a layer of reddish sand:

Twitter BBC Weather Saharan Dust in Pyrenees

An amazing sight, isn’t it?

Although, as someone who’s grown up using sand and gravel on snow to stop motion, I do have to wonder at one thing: how on earth are you able to ski down these slopes?

(Being the wrong kind of Master of Science, I can only guess it has to do with the skier’s weight pushing the skis below the surface of the snow, therefore escaping the sand friction and still enabling skiing, but I don’t know.)

Image by BBC Weather on Twitter

Out There highlights intriguing art, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Ukraine Has Been at War for 105 Days

Ukraine has been at war for 105 days now. That’s 15 long, grueling weeks. (Also the length of Finland’s Winter War with the USSR, which is why the number is significant to me.)

Twitter Helsingin kaupungintalo valaistu

Russia’s craven attack (despite the incompetence it seems to have been implemented with) did change the world, albeit a bit differently than intended. Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia have submitted their applications to join the EU.* There’s an unprecedented feeling and showing of solidarity towards Ukraine in Europe. Russia—and especially their petty, piddling thing of a presidential figure—is becoming something of a pariah at least in the Euro-American world. Furthermore, Finland and Sweden are joining NATO, ditching their long-cherished military independence.**

That’s in the first three months. Much like the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic, it’s felt three times as long. Unfortunately, I’m afraid this conflict will be a matter of years. Sigh.

World, any time you want to return to duller times is okay by me.

*) Getting even a membership candidate status isn’t simple, though, so this isn’t happening soon.

**) And thanks to Turkey’s pretentions of power-playing, this isn’t going to be as much of an open-and-shut case as we thought, either. Ohwell. I do believe Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership will happen eventually.

Image: Helsinki City Hall lit in blue and yellow in solidarity with Ukraine by the city of Helsinki on Twitter

When the suckage just sucks too much.

Ukraine Is at War, and I’m Not Okay

Russia has attacked Ukraine, and I’m not okay.

Russia’s unprovoked attack is not okay. The Russian president’s mumbo jumbo about annexation of historical areas is exactly that. Neither the Russian Empire nor Soviet Union exist anymore. If we go down that path, we might as well cry out for the restoration of the Roman Empire, other empires, or basically any polities for “historical” “reasons”.

Arienne King World History Encyclopedia Map of the Mongol Empire

As a Finn, I am not intellectually okay with this.

Twitter Jon Copper Map of Not Russia

Nor do I feel okay.

My age group has grown up in peace, but we have grandparents who lived through our two modern wars with Russia, and you can bet your pants some of our parents carry some inherited wounds. I have a friend, in fact, who grew up in the east near the Russian border. People there had a habit of saying “When the Russians come, [blah blah blah]”. Not ifwhen.

We remember.

The responsibility for this heinous act lies with Russia, and Russia alone.

Ukraine may be a lot bigger than Finland, but I wish them every ounce of dedication, not to mention willfulness and obstinancy I can muster.

I’m not okay. But I will be better. In the meanwhile, I’ve made donations, and I’m following the situation.

Images: Map of the Mongol empire by Arienne King via World History Encyclopedia (CC BY-NC -SA 4.0). Map of not Russia via Jon Cooper on Twitter.

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Living Vicariously Through Social Media: Herons in Amsterdam

Would you ever have thought large birds could live in cities? I would’ve found it a stretch on the basis of my experience, but apparently in Amsterdam in the Netherlands there is a large urban population of herons. Photographer Julie Hrudová has been documenting them, and the photos are very arresting.

Julie Hrudova Herons Amsterdam on Roofs

Some of the birds seem to be getting quite bold:

Julie Hrudova Herons Amsterdam Indoors Sm

Fascinating, isn’t it? Also, the pictures gives me all sorts of ideas for secondary worldbuilding. I could easily imagine semi-domesticated herons in a story, rather like the reindeer in Lapland.

Found via Colossal.

Images: On roofs by Julie Hrudová. Indoors by Julie Hrudová via Colossal.

The Visual Inspiration occasional feature pulls the unusual from our world to inspire design, story-telling, and worldbuilding. If stuff like this already exists, what else could we imagine?

Living Vicariously Through Social Media: An Undersea Roundabout in the Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands—an autonomous region of Denmark—has built bridges and tunnels before to connect the numerous islands or islets and its 50,000-some residents. Never before, however, have they dug an undersea tunnel as deep or as long as the brand-new Eysturoyartunnilin, nor built an undersea roundabout.

Eysturoyartunnil Interior Green

The roundabout is part of a tunnel measuring about 11 km (6.8 miles), the third sub-sea tunnel in the islands. It connects the islands of Streymoy and Eysturoy, and reaches at its deepest 187 meters (roughly 200 yards) below sea level. At this writing the tunnel’s been in use for about a month.

Eysturoyartunnil Map

The roundabout comes with art—sculptures and light effects—designed by the Faroese artist Tróndur Patursson. You can read more about the tunnel at BBC or the P/F Eysturoyar- og Sandoyartunnil project website.

Eysturoyartunnil Interior Blue

Oh, my goodness. It’s obviously not a solution that suits every location, and I assume the cost plus know-how involved can also be a deterrent, but what a feat of engineering and vision it is. This is yet another reason why it’s (pandemic aside) exciting to be living now!

Found via Kristina Háfoss on Twitter.

Images: Map by P/F Eysturoyar- og Sandoyartunnil. Interior images by Estunlar.fo via BBC.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Video of 14th-Century Techniques of Bridge Building

Here is an interesting animation of how the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic, was built with 14th century techniques:

Karlův most – Stavba pilíře a klenebního pole ve 14. století by praha-archeologicka.cz on YouTube

3D graphics and postproduction is by Tomáš Musílek, with assists from Ondřej Šefců and Zdeněk Mazač. More information about Charles Bridge can be found at the portal Prague – the City of Archaeology. (Note: most of the site’s content and functionality seems to be in Polish, or link from the English summary to the equivalent full page in Polish.)

I love it how we’re now able to not just model but animate many old or even ancient building projects. It really reveals how far we’ve come and the skills and persistence we have as a species.

Found via File 770.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

New Find: Neanderthals Worked with Fibers to Make Yarn or Cord

The world’s oldest yarn or cord has been found. The fragment was discovered at the prehistoric cave site Abri du Maras in the south of France.

Scientific Reports Hardy et al Neanderthal Fiber

The 3-ply cord fragment was made from fibers by twisting, likely of inner conifer bark, and found on a stone tool. A number of artefacts at the same site also have plant / wood fibers adhering to their surfaces, but the remains are not extensive enough to classify as cords.

The researchers estimate the meaning of the find thus:

“While it is clear that the cord from Abri du Maras demonstrates Neanderthals’ ability to manufacture cordage, it hints at a much larger fibre technology. Once the production of a twisted, plied cord has been accomplished it is possible to manufacture bags, mats, nets, fabric, baskets, structures, snares, and even watercraft. […]

“Ropes and baskets are central to a large number of human activities. They facilitate the transport and storage of foodstuffs, aid in the design of complex tools (hafts, fishing, navigation) or objects (art, decoration). The technological and artistic applications of twisted fibre technologies are vast. Once adopted, fibre technology would have been indispensable and would have been a part of everyday life.”

 

Fascinating! Like the research team says, fiber making allows for an incredibly large variety of material culture, from utilitarian objects to clothing to decorative motifs. As a bit of a fiber nerd, it’s tantalizing to think that people were making yarn already 40,000 years ago.

Found via CNN. Read more in Scientific Reports.

Image: Hardy, B.L., Moncel, M., Kerfant, C. et al. in “Direct evidence of Neanderthal fibre technology and its cognitive and behavioral implications” via Scientific Reports

Slavic Pagan Fusion Photoshoot Is Out of This World

This photo project is an older one, but due to the buzz generated by The Witcher screen adaptation it might be of interest.

(FYI: I can’t find a webpage dedicated solely to the project, so what I know mainly comes from an article at Design You Trust.)

Polish photographer and graphic designer Marcin Nagraba collaborated with designer Agnieszka Osipa to create a photoshoot entitled Pagan Poetry. Stylistically it can be described as Slavic fusion meets myth, fantasy, or Baroque. Osipa’s outfits certainly are out of this world—just check out the three examples below!

FB Marcin Nagraba See No Evil

FB Marcin Nagraba White and Red

FB Marcin Nagraba Alberta Ushakova

Nagraba’s personal Facebook page states he’s a “Former Photographer at Marcin Nagraba – Photography & Art”, so it sounds like he will not be continuing this project. Osipa is active, however, and she’s posting new work on Instagram and Facebook.

Found via Design You Trust. Check out the article and Nagraba’s Facebook page for more photos!

Images by Marcin Nagraba via Facebook: See No Evil, red and white, Alberta Ushakova.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.