Meet Ragnar, possibly the first trumpeter in the history of the world. He lived about 15,000 years ago in the caves of Southwest France. Ragnar was admired and feared by others because he knew how to make loud sounds by vibrating his lips into a bison horn – a terrifying noise that could frighten away dangerous predators and enemies. When hunting animals, Ragnar blew his horn to force them into a trap where other hunters would be waiting to kill them. At night in the cave, Ragnar played his bison horn for family and friends to make musical sounds, to make people dance, and/or to imitate the sounds of animals or human voices.
Sounds of the Bison Horn
At important events such as the birth of a baby, the death of a family member, or when a child became an adult, Ragnar made strange sounds by blowing his bison horn inside the cave; the noise traveled around the walls of the cave and made a weird, eerie din. These extraordinary sounds were unnatural and appeared to be coming from another world, perhaps signaling the transition between life and death. In addition, it is possible (based on what we know of other Paleolithic cultures) that Ragnar played his horn to heal sick family and friends, and to make contact with the dead. In other words, Ragnar’s bison horn played an important role in daily life 15,000 years ago, and this was only the beginning…
Other First Trumpeters
The question of who made the first trumpet sound is an interesting one. There is no way to know who, when, where, and what made the first trumpet sound but there are a few clues. First, we know that people inhabited areas across the globe as of 250,000 BCE. Second, flutes have been found that date back to the Upper Paleolithic period (40,000 BCE) and there is substantial evidence of the use of trumpets (lip-blown instruments) across the globe during the Neolithic period (10,000-2,000 BCE). It is probable that trumpet playing did not emerge from a single source, but developed in many places at many times, independent of one another. This is most likely because of the tendency of people to make sounds by blowing into objects. In short, there could have been many “first trumpeters” around the globe.
Ragnar is the Brass For Beginners™ tour guide who will take us across the globe to show the many uses of natural trumpets throughout human history. He will help us to understand the importance of trumpet sounds for peoples of the past, and will show us many amazing types of trumpets along the way.