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The L'Anse Amour Flute

The oldest North American flute with a definitive dating that I have found cited in the literature is a bone flute found in a burial mound in L'Anse Amour on the Strait of Belle Isle coast in Southern Labrador. The burial was radiocarbon dated to 5580±140 BCE ([Jelsma 2000], page 15). Katherine Lee Hall Martin had previously reported a date of 5525 BCE in a 1974 personal communication with Paul Parmalee ([Martin-KLH 1976] Bone Flutes and Whistles from Archaeological Sites in Eastern North America, page 25).

In July 2016 I obtained a copy of the original report on the L'Anse Amour flute by Robert J. McGhee and James A. Tuck. Excerpts from this report are provided in PDF format ([McGhee 1975] An Archaic Sequence from the Strait of Belle Isle, Labrador). That report has images that were reported in actual size, so I was able to develop these measurements derived from the physical report:

The L'Anse Amour flute with measurements

The L'Anse Amour Flute with measurements Larger image

Additional Information

The remainder of this page provide additional background information that was developed prior to July 2016 (before I obtained the original report).

The L'Anse Amour flute

The L'Anse Amour Flute Larger image

The photo of the flute is from [McGhee 2011], provided courtesy of the Memorial University of Newfoundland. The article notes that the flute is made from the wing bone of a large bird.

The 7,500 year old burial mound consists of a circular mound of stacked rocks that measured eight meters in diameter and one meter high containing the skeleton of a child of about 12 years of age interred at a depth of about 1.6 meter ([Morris-R 2007], page 22).

The citations that I have found refer only to “a bone flute … among the grave goods” with no additional information ([Jelsma 2000], page 15; [McGhee 1975] An Archaic Sequence from the Strait of Belle Isle, Labrador, pages 85–92; [McGhee 1976]; and [Tuck 1976] An Archaic Indian Burial Mound in Labrador).

New information was published on this artifact on October 20, 2014 ([Nlarchaeology 2014]).

Additional information is from [McGhee 1975] An Archaic Sequence from the Strait of Belle Isle, Labrador, page 90:

Whistle or Flute: This instrument is made from a bird long-bone, circular in cross-section with outside diameter of 12 mm (0.47″), and cut to a length of 170 mm (6.69″). The end placed in the mouth is somewhat broken. Along one edge, two drilled holes six mm (0.24″) in diameter are centered at distances of 25 mm and 50 mm (0.98″ and 1.97″) from the other end; this edge is also decorated with a series of short horizontal incisions placed approximately two mm (0.08″) apart and extending for a distance of 85 mm (3.35″) from the distal end. When blown as a whistle the instrument produces a piercing note above the range of the piano keyboard. The instrument may have been reduced from a longer length, as the edge of a third hole is visible in the cut surface of the distal end.

Here is another image of the artifact from [McGhee 1976], page 24. It carries the caption “A bird-bone flute and a pendant were found underneath the chest.”:

The L'Anse Amour flute

The L'Anse Amour Flute Larger image

If you have more information on this artifact, please contact me.

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