This page gives more information about bone flutes, as well as a free download of an article about them.


Medieval Bone Flutes

These are fascinating instruments! It would appear that they were commonly used in medieval times, as over a hundred have been found in England in archaeological excavations. However, none appear in any writings or illustrations of the time. This isn't necessarily because they were instruments belonging to poorer people, as some flutes have come from very high status sites like castles and manor houses.

I have studied, measured and photographed all of the known museum examples so far, and the two types of bone flutes on offer on this website are generalised examples that are realistic and true to the originals. Both types are used by musicians, reenactors, teachers and historians, and some are in museum collections both here and abroad.

The sheep bone flute is one of the more common flute types found, and is very much suited to general use. The range of notes is small, but the instrument can produce beautiful and simple melodies. For a more mellow sound with more possible notes, the deer bone flute is more appropriate, but if it's to be used for accurate historical presentations, it's important to remember that this type of flute would probably not be owned by someone of low social status.

To understand a bit more about why this is the case, and about bone flutes in general, you're welcome to download and read an article I wrote for the Galpin Society Journal:
Many thanks to the Galpin Society for permission to use this here. If you'd like to refer to this article, the full bibliographic reference is as follows:
Leaf, H, 2006. English Medieval Bone Flutes - a Brief Introduction. Galpin Society Journal 59, 13-19.

More than that, well, I'm working towards publishing my PhD thesis on the flutes, and will have copies available via the website. If you'd like to hear news about when this appears in print, contact me and I'll let you know.