Reasons to Believe

New Flute Plays into Biblical Case for Human Origins

New Evidence of Profound Behavioral Differences between Modern Humans and the Hominids

One of my all-time favorite musical groups is The Marshall Tucker Band. I spent a lot of time listening to them when I was growing up. These exceptional musicians were true innovators, blending country with jazz, blues, and rock. Formed in the early 1970s, The Marshall Tucker Band helped establish the genre of southern rock.

One of the distinctives of this group was the playing of flutist Jerry Eubanks. His solos were incredible. (Go here for a sample.)

Amazingly, the first humans in Europe played the flute, too. This new insight, which derives from a recent archeological find in Germany, has important implications for the origin of humanity, the origin of music, and the biblical claim that human beings are made in God's image.

Over the last seventy years, archeologists have investigated a number of caves in southern Germany near the Danube Valley. These caves are considered to be exceptionally important because they comprise part of the route the first modern humans took when they migrated into central and western Europe. The remains found in these caves provide clues into the behavior of the earliest human beings.

Archeologists have uncovered a treasure trove of art from these locations, including ivory carvings of animals, the famous lion-man statue, and a Venus figurine, all dating between 30,000 and 37,000 years in age. Now they've added flutes made out of bird bones and ivory to the collection.

As I wrote several weeks ago, the date of these flutes corresponds to the Aurignacian culture, associated with the time humans first entered Europe. This find indicates that people carried the ability to produce sophisticated musical expression with them when they arrived.

The Aurignacian culture contrasts sharply with Neanderthal "culture." These hominids existed in Europe prior to the arrival of modern humans. Compared to the Aurignacian, Neanderthal culture was crude, cumbersome, and lacks evidence for artistic or musical expression. (For a detailed discussion about the differences between modern humans and the hominids, see Who Was Adam?.)

This contrast fits well with RTB's creation model. Based on the biblical accounts of human origins, we argue that the image of God belongs uniquely to human beings. As a corollary, this view regards the hominids, like Neanderthals, as creatures with some intellectual and emotional capacity, but lacking a spiritual makeup. Based on this key difference, it's expected that the hominids and humans would behave in fundamentally different ways. The discovery of the flutes associated with the Aurignacian culture indicates that musical and symbolic expression belong inherently and uniquely to humanity. The co-occurrence of true culture and humans fits the notion that human beings were created recently as a result of God's direct activity and in his image.

Subjects: Human Origins and the Bible

Dr. Fazale Rana

In 1999, I left my position in R&D at a Fortune 500 company to join Reasons to Believe because I felt the most important thing I could do as a scientist is to communicate to skeptics and believers alike the powerful scientific evidence—evidence that is being uncovered day after day—for God’s existence and the reliability of Scripture. Read more about Dr. Fazale Rana