Alligator drums are amongst the oldest musical instruments from China. Have you ever wondered what the oldest drum in the world is? Here on this post, I will try to give the answer to that question.
The History of Alligator Drums
Since the discovery of Jiahu Flutes, scholars have been interested in the earliest music in China. Just like bone, clay also survives well in historic sites. So, they started finding musical instruments made from clay in China. First of all, they found clay flutes from 4600 BC. Then, they discovered several alligator drums from Neolithic sites from modern Shandong, China. Apparently, early humans made alligator drums from clay and alligator hides.
During the Archaic period, alligators probably lived along the east coast of China. So, it is not a surprise that the archaeological sites around there including Shandong contained the first examples of alligator drums. Among these sites, Dawenkou, Longshan, Shandong, and Taosi are the most important ones. These drums provide most of what we know about music in the long period between the Jiahu Flutes and the music of Shang dynasty.
So what is an alligator drum? Basically, it is a drum made from clay and alligator hides. The earliest examples of alligator drums consist of a wooden frame covered with alligator skin. However, the latter ones have clay bodies since the early humans had discovered that clay is just durable as bones to make musical instruments. Without alligator hides on them, they look just like pots. Therefore, some scholars argue that these are no drums at all.
There are rows of hooks around the opening of these clay pots. Although some say that they are for attaching the skin, others argue that they are for attaching lids. Also, the drums from Africa and East Asia challenges this idea too, since they have their skins securely attached by ropes around the drum.
The larger holes on the pots turn its body into a resonator. However, even large holes do not prove them to be drums. So, if scholars can securely attach a modern drum skin on them and make a reasonable sound with them, they can prove that they are drums.
In conclusion, there is no certainity in prehistorical researches. However, for now, Chinese people would like to call them the oldest drums in the world.
- Neanderthal Flute
- Geissenklösterle Flutes
- Hohle Fels Flute
- Isturitz Flutes
- Jiahu Flutes
- Wicklow Pipes