Medieval bone flute found in Kent

The musical instrument was crafted from a sheep or goat tibia shaft.

A rare and remarkably well-preserved bone flute has been discovered during excavations by Cotswold Archaeology on a development site at Herne Bay, on the north Kent coast.

The worked bone flute. IMAGE: Cotswold Archaeology

The musical instrument was found in a medieval pit, in association with pottery dated from the 12th to 15th century.

Crafted from the tibia shaft of a sheep or a goat, with five finger holes carved along the top and a thumb hole underneath, it is believed to be a ‘fipple flute’ – a variety of instrument that includes the tin whistle and recorder.

Though it may be missing some form of mouthpiece, it is otherwise complete.

The musical instrument was crafted from a sheep or goat tibia shaft.
The flute was found in a pit situated within a small rectangular enclosure believed to be medieval in date. IMAGE: Cotswold Archaeology.

Investigations at Herne Bay have so far unearthed a wealth of evidence alluding to multiple periods of occupation, including ditches, pits, and pottery spanning from the Middle-Late Bronze Age through to the Roman period.

Excavations at Herne Bay were carried out by Cotswold Archaeology’s Andover fieldwork team. IMAGE: Cotswold Archaeology

Other evidence of Anglo-Saxon or early medieval activity is represented by archaeological features such as pits, postholes, and a small rectangular enclosure (where the flute was discovered).

Post-excavation analysis is ongoing.