The Oldest Musical Instruments in the World

It does not matter what language you speak or where you come from, music can be listened to and understood by everybody. That is why it has been called the world’s universal language. There is no definitive answer as to which of our forefathers invented or first played music, but there is documentation of early musical instruments.

Some of the earliest instruments have been dated back to almost forty thousand years ago, but these may not be the first. However, these findings do point out that the first settlers who came to Europe already had instruments, so it asks the question where were the first instruments made?


A pair of trumpets found when the Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s Tomb was discovered have been dated as over three thousand years old. Howard Carter found them when he excavated the tomb, and they are supposed to be the oldest surviving playable musical instruments in the world. And actually, they were played live in 1939 on BBC radio although there were protests at the time as they were considered to have the power to summon war.


The oldest musical instruments from China are thirty three flutes made out of Red-Crown Crane wing bones. Sadly only twenty of the flutes were intact when they were discovered in the Yellow River Valley. Six of these flutes are still playable today and are the oldest multi-note instruments ever discovered.


A lithophone is any musical instrument that is made out of rock, and most produce sounds when they are hit or struck by something. Some of the very earliest examples of lithophones are from Asia and Vietnam. These are called Dan Da and have eleven stones that are vertically arranged. A good example still existing of a lithophone is the Musical Stones of Skiddaw, which were found two hundred years ago in Northern England. 


Made from a piece of flat wood with a cord wound around the top, a Bullroarer was a musical instrument that was played at ancient rituals all around the world. It was designed for communicating over long distances and the oldest example was unearthed in the Ukraine which dated back to around the Paleolithic period. Other examples of this instrument have been found in the Americas, Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Hohle Fels Flute

Our last musical instrument dates back to over forty thousand years, and is the Hohle Fels Flute. This flute was discovered in 2008 in the Hohle Fels Cave in Germany and is made from Griffon Vulture bone. It the oldest flute that resembles a modern day flute, being roughly eight and a half inches long and has an aperture similar to contemporary flute’s to blow into.

Archaeologists say that this flute confirms the theory that there was already an established musical culture before settlers came to Europe. A replica of the Hohle Fels Flute was made by an archaeologist named Wulf Hein and he used it to play a version of The Star Spangled Banner!