Expert Tunes Into Aztec 'Death Whistles'

Sounds from pre-Columbian ceremonies brought back to life
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2008 6:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – A Mexican engineer has worked for decades to bring the sounds of the Aztecs back to life, reports the AP. Roberto Velazquez has created replicas of the instruments found at many archaeological sites—including the eerie "Whistles of Death" discovered with a skeleton in an ancient temple—and experimented to re-create noises that may have been heard at ceremonies thousands of years ago.

Noisemakers are believed to have played a key role in the life of pre-Columbian peoples, with some used to terrify enemies and others to send people into healing trances. The mournful "Whistles of Death" are thought to have been played by victims before they were sacrificed to the gods. "We've been looking at our ancient culture as if they were deaf and mute," Velazquez said. "But I think all of this is tied closely to what they did, how they thought."