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Neanderthals may have invented music

music Updated: Feb 09, 2009 16:01 IST

ANI
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Jazz composer Simon Thorne has tried to recreate the kind of music which he thinks the Neanderthals might have played when they were still around, and has also suggested that they might have invented the beginnings of music.

Neanderthal man existed side by side with early homo sapiens before becoming extinct some 30,000 years ago.

Despite having a reputation for lacking intelligence, recent research suggests the Neanderthals were a lot more resourceful and innovative than was first thought.

“Given that Neanderthal man’s brain was about the same size as ours, and much of our brain is given over to language, then you can assume they probably had language too,” Thorne told BBC News.

“Every culture has language and music, so we can probably assume that they had some kind of music too,” he added.

Thorne’s 75-minute composition was commissioned by National Museum Wales to provide a musical illustration for the palaeolithic section of its exhibition Origins of Early Wales.

The Neanderthal exhibits at the museum have helped inspire Simon Thorne’s work.

The exhibition includes artefacts like a Neanderthal hand axe and teeth found at Pontnewydd in Denbighshire and, as part of his research, Thorne visited the cave where they were found.

According to Thorne, he was the first to admit that knowing exactly what Neanderthal music would have sounded like is impossible.

“It’s a ridiculous notion to suggest we could ever know the precise role that music played in the lives of the Neanderthals, but imagining it has been a fascinating experience,” he added.

The composer has also researched the era extensively and been inspired by two books - Professor Steven Mithen’s ‘The Singing Neanderthals’ and David Lewis Williams’s ‘The Mind in the Cave’.

“Thorne’s work was a fantastic go at evoking the sense of prehistory of our human ancestry,” said Professor Steven Mithen. “He is trying to create the whole sense of being there at that time,” he added.

As well as the music, a specially commissioned film will help transport those present at the museum into a Neanderthal cave.