Thursday, January 1, 1987

France (c. 28,000 BC) - Horn - Aerophone

The Venus of Laussel is a Venus figurine, a 1.5 foot high limestone bas-relief of a nude female figure, painted with red ochre, and is approximately 28,000 years old (Aurignacian).

[Anonymous French (b. c. 1170)
La Seconde Estampie Real (c. 1200]

The figure holds a wisent horn...

[The wisent (pronounced /ˈviːzənt/), or European bison (Bison bonasus), is a bison species and the heaviest surviving land animal in Europe. A typical wisent is about 2.9 m (9.5 ft) long and 1.8–2.2 m (5.9–7.4 ft) tall, and weighs 300–920 kg (660–2000 lb). It is typically smaller than the related American bison (Bison bison), and has shorter hair on the neck, head, and forequarters, but longer tail and horns. Wisent are now forest-dwelling. They have few predators (besides humans) with only scattered reports from the 1800s of wolf and bear predation. Wisent were first scientifically described by Carolus Linnaeus in 1758. Some later descriptions treat the wisent as conspecific with the American bison. It is not to be confused with the aurochs, the extinct ancestor of domestic cattle.]

[California poster from, of course, way later]

...or possibly a cornucopia...

[The cornucopia (Latin: Cornu Copiae) is a symbol of food and abundance dating back at least to the 5th Century BC, also referred to as Horn of Plenty, Horn of Amalthea, and harvest cone.
In Greek mythology, Amalthea raised Zeus on the milk of a goat. In return Jupiter gave Amalthea the goat's horn. It had the power to give to the person in possession of it whatever he or she wished for. This gave rise to the legend of the cornucopia. The original depictions were of the goat's horn filled with fruits and flowers: deities, especially Fortuna, would be depicted with the horn of plenty. The cornucopia was also a symbol for a woman's fertility. In modern depiction, the cornucopia is typically a hollow, horn-shaped wicker basket typically filled with various kinds of festive fruit and vegetables. In North America, the cornucopia has come to be associated with Thanksgiving and the harvest.] one hand, which has 13 notches. According to some researchers, this may symbolise the number of moons or the number of menstrual cycles in one year. She has her hand on her abdomen (or womb), with large breasts and vulva. There is a "Y" on her thigh and her faceless head is turned toward the horn.

At least one writer (flutist and author James Galway) maintains that the horn decpicted is a musical one. If so, the woman is holding it in the manner of a medieval gemshorn (i.e. bell towards mouth).

The figure was rediscovered in 1911 by J. G. Lalanne, a physician. It was carved into the wall of a limestone rock shelter (abri de Laussel) on the territory of the commune of Marquay, in the Dordogne department of southwestern France. It is now in the Musée d'Aquitaine, in Bordeaux, France.


An aerophone is any musical instrument which produces sound primarily by causing a body of air to vibrate, without the use of strings or membranes, and without the vibration of the instrument itself adding considerably to the sound. It is one of the five main classes (class 4, although with respect to traditional western classifications of instruments, corresponding to the "woodwinds and brass" of symphony orchestras, which tend to be located toward the top of pages in full scores) of instruments in the original Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification.

Hornbostel-Sachs divides aerophones by whether vibrating air is contained in the instrument itself or not.

The first class (41) includes instruments where the vibrating air is not contained by the instrument itself, such as the bullroarer. Such instruments are called free aerophones. This class includes free reed instruments, such as the harmonica, but also many instruments unlikely to be called wind instruments at all by most people, such as sirens and whips.

The second class (42) includes instruments where the vibrating air is contained by the instrument. This class includes almost all the instruments generally called wind instruments in the west, such as the flute, sheng, oboe, and trombone.

Additionally, very loud sounds can be made by explosions directed into, or being detonated inside of resonant cavities. Instruments such as the calliope (and steam whistle), as well as the pyrophone (fire/explosion organ[!]) might thus be considered as class 42 instruments, despite the fact that the "wind" or "air" may be steam or an air-fuel mixture.

[1988 Senegal / 1987 France / 1985 Tanzania]