The clarinet was invented toward the end of the 17th century, although the exact year is unknown. It was invented by the Nuremberg instrument maker, Johann Christoph Denner.
As is the case with most instruments, the clarinet was more of an evolution of earlier and antiquarian designs than an entirely novel invention. The Egyptian memet, for instance, which has also been found among Greek and Etruscan (early Italian) artifacts, was a reed instrument played with two cylindrical pipes.
The medieval European chalumeau was the clarinet's direct precursor, played with a single reed and eight finger holes. One of Denner's known contributions was to give it two keys.