In the same way that fragments of ancient pottery and bones offer valuable information about human history, music can also reveal previously hidden clues about the past, according to new research from an international team led by McMaster University psychologist Steven Brown.
The team has established for the first time that the history of human populations is embedded in music, where complex combinations of rhythm, pitch and arrangement form a code that scientists can read in a manner that can be compared to the way they read changes in human DNA and language.
“Music is an untapped migrational marker that can be used to help people understand the history of human populations,” says Brown, an associate professor of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour. “It adds to the whole story of human history. We need more evidence, and this is a new kind of evidence that we can add to the pot.”
Brown’s research team used a comparison between the mitochondrial DNA and the folk music of nine indigenous populations of Taiwan to show that each tells a similar story about the ways those populations have changed and converged over the last 6,000 years.
Mitochondrial DNA changes at a predictable rate, acting as an evolutionary clock that makes it ideal for such comparisons.
The group included researchers from Tokyo University of the Arts, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and China Medical University and Mackay Memorial Hospital, both in Taiwan. Their results are published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, one of the society’s biological journals.
Read more at: Phys.org