Listen to an 18,000-Year-Old Instrument Sing Once More

Long, long ago, a human modified a conch shell to belt out a tune. Here’s how scientists resurrected its triumphant sound.

Some 18,000 years ago, in a cave in what we now call France, a human being left behind something precious: a conch shell. It was not just any conch shell. Its tip had been lopped off—unlikely by accident, given that this is the strongest part of the shell—allowing a person to blow air into it. The shell’s jagged outer lip was trimmed smooth, perhaps to assist in gripping, and it also bore red, smudgy fingerprints that matched the pigment from a cave painting just feet away

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