Prehistoric Music

Prehistoric music is music that existed before humans were able to write, so that future generations would have a record of what their lives were like.

Archeologists have found evidence that these early humans did indeed make music; some of their finds date back almost 40,000 years.

We can’t know what the music of prehistoric humans really sounded like, but perhaps they imitated the sounds of nature (animals, weather…) They may also have made songs or sounds that helped them while they were hunting. Perhaps their music was used in mystical rituals, and perhaps their music reflected the sounds a mother makes to her child. There are many theories, but nobody knows exactly what prehistoric music really was.

Prehistoric musical instruments

We do have an idea of the instruments that prehistoric people used to make music. Below are a few examples of instruments that archeologists have found. And let’s not forget that many objects in daily life can be used as instruments, like rocks and sticks… It’s very likely that prehistoric people also used those and other objects in their musical exploration.

Of course, the human voice is the oldest and most important musical instrument. Singing, or chanting, has been a tradition for as long as we know. 


Ancient bone flutes have been found in China, as well as in other places. Here is one, called a “gudi” (which means “bone flute” in Chinese).

Bone flute

Ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt, music was mostly based on rhythm. But chanting was used for mystical rituals. Objects like seashells were perhaps used as rhythm instruments. 

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The Goddess Bat created music

The ancient Egyptians believed that the Goddess Bat created music. Bat was a Cow Goddess, and was associated with religious rituals.
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The Bullroarer

The bullroarer, rhombus, or turndun, is an ancient ritual musical instrument and a device historically used for communicating over great distances. It dates to the Paleolithic period, being found in Ukraine dating from 18,000 BC. Anthropologist Michael Boyd, a bullroarer expert, documents a number found in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia. In ancient Greece it was a sacred instrument used in the Dionysian Mysteries and is still used in rituals worldwide. It was a prominent musical technology among the Australian Aboriginal people, used in ceremonies and to communicate with different people groups across the continent.