3,000-Year-Old Trumpet Played Again





Now you can hear a marine-inspired melody from before the time of the Little Mermaid's hot crustacean band. Acoustic scientists put their lips to ancient conch shells to figure out how humans used these trumpets 3,000 years ago. The well-preserved, ornately decorated shells found at a pre-Inca religious site in Peru offered researchers a rare opportunity to jam on primeval instruments.

The music, powerfully haunting and droning, could have been used in religious ceremonies, the scientists say. The team reported their analysis Nov. 17 at the Second Pan-American/Iberian Meeting on Acoustics in Cancun, Mexico.

Listen to the ancient trumpets being played through links at bottom of story.

"You can really feel it in your chest," says Jonathan Abel, an acoustician at Stanford University's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. "It has a rough texture like a tonal animal roar."

Archaeologists had unearthed 20 complete Strombus galeatus marine shell trumpets in 2001 at Chavín de Huántar, an ancient ceremonial center in the Andes. Polished, painted and etched with symbols, the shells had well-formed mouthpieces and distinct V-shaped cuts. The cuts may have been used as a rest for the player's thumb, says study co-author Perry Cook, a computer scientist at Princeton University and avid shell musician, or to allow the player to see over the instrument while walking. ...



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