Human beings have been making music as far back at least as far back as the Upper Paleolithic period, which lasted from around 40,000 years ago to around 10,000 years ago.

It's impossible to tell exactly when humans first began to make music. The very first musical instruments may have been the human voice (for singing or whistling), human hands (for clapping), or unmodified natural objects such as rocks (also for percussion). Because these things weren't designed just to make music, we can't tell exactly when people began using them that way.

The oldest musical instruments that we know of are two flutes that are about 43,000 years old. One was made from mammoth ivory and one was made from bird bone. They were discovered in Geissenkloesterle Cave in southern Germany. Their discovery was reported to the Journal of Human Evolution in 2011 and published the following year.

The Divje Babe flute may also be one of the oldest known musical instruments. About 43,000 years old as well, the it was found among Neanderthal remains in Slovenia in 1995. The Divje Babe flute is part of the femur of a young cave bear. It has holes that seem to have been bored into it in order to turn it into a flute. However, some scientists say that the holes could have been made by a carnivore.

The next oldest object that was clearly created to be a musical instrument is a flute that was found in Hohle Fehls Cave in Germany. It is about 35,000 years old. The Hohle Fehls flute, which has five holes, was made out of the bone from a Vulture's wing.

The oldest known wooden music instruments are six 4,000-year-old wooden flutes that were discovered in Greystones, Ireland.

There are a number of different theories to explain why human beings began to make music. Some say that music was originally a form of "mating call", like birdsong. Charles Darwin believed that music was used in mating.

Another theory is that music began when people started creating rhythmic sounds while working to help them work more efficiently.

Religious rituals may have combined music and art. Bone flutes and bone and ivory "roarers" - instruments that make noises when spun - have been found in painted caves. Sound is often amplified in parts of caves where there are cave paintings, a sign that these places may have been "theaters" where religious ceremonies were performed.