Sounding Clay: Rattles, Flutes, Drums and Horns in the Neolithic

Arnd Adje Both

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The so-called Neolithic Revolution, in the last phase of the Stone Age had great relevance for the manufacture and use of musical instruments. In the Periods before the Neolithic, i.e., the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic, the physical form of the natural materials used to make musical instruments played a key role in defining their finished morphology and, to a large extent, their playing characteristics. With the introduction of moulded and fired clay into the available range of materials, these restrictions were largely swept away. Thus, pottery instruments could be designed, made and experimented with and, in using the new plastic medium, new instrumental characteristics could be developed. We can see this process at work, for example, in the case of the Neolithic pottery horns which were found in Hungary and in caves in the Massif Central of southern France (Fig. 1). Their slightly curved shapes strongly resemble animal horns, suggesting that their precursors were of this form, although we have no evidence as animal horn is a perishable material. However, because of the malleability of the clay used, the funnel-shaped bell of these pottery instruments could be widened to produce a shape not found in any animal horn. The particular design appears to have been created as a means of intensifying the sound emitted, allowing it to be audible over a wider area.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusic and Sounds in Ancient Europe
Subtitle of host publicationContributions from the European Music Archaeology Project
EditorsStefano De Angeli, Arnd Adje Both, Stefan Hagel, Peter Holmes, Raquel Jiménez Pasalodos, Cajsa S. Lund
Place of PublicationRome
PublisherEuropean Music Archaeology Project
Number of pages2
ISBN (Print)9788890455537
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018
Externally publishedYes
EventARCHÆOMUSICA: The Sounds and Music of Ancient Europe - Ex Cartiera, Rome, Italy
Duration: 11 Oct 201711 Dec 2017


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