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Conch shell in French museum found to be 17,000-year-old wind instrument

Conch, unearthed in cave in Pyrenees in 1931, had been carefully drilled and shaped to make music

A 17,000-year-old conch shell that lay forgotten for more than 80 years in a museum collection has been discovered to be the oldest known wind instrument of its type, after researchers found it had been modified by its prehistoric owners to be played like a horn.

First unearthed in a richly decorated cave in the Pyrenees in 1931, the large shell was initially overlooked by archaeologists, who assumed it was a communal “loving cup” used by the Palaeolithic people whose wall art adorns the space.

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