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Museum of Toulouse is home to oldest known seashell horn

Originally presumed to be nothing more than a drinking vessel, the conch shell sat for over 80 years in the Natural History Museum of Toulouse.

Since 2016, a team has been reanalysing the conch shell using modern imaging technology. They concluded that the shell had been deliberately chipped and punctured to turn it into a musical instrument. It’s an extremely rare example of a “seashell horn” from the Paleolithic period, the team concluded. And it still works — a musician from the University of Toulouse recently managed to play a few different notes on the 17,000-year-old shell.

News on the discovery can be read in English on the Guardian website and in the New York Times, in French on the Museum's website blog, or in Dutch on scientias.nl and you can listen to the sounds it produces on all platforms!


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  • conch shell
  • marsoulas


Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de Toulouse

The Natural History Museum of Toulouse

150 years after its founding, the Museum again opened its doors in 2008 after remaining closed for 10 years while it was undergoing a complete redesign. Now reorganised to reflect the relationship between man, nature and environment, its aim is to be a knowledge sharing institution that imparts its own particular perspective while instilling a sense of wonder and delight in visitors.

The exhibition circuit is designed to arouse curiosity and awareness of the position we occupy on this planet and how we can stay in harmony with it.