What is the Aztec Death Whistle?

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Written By Tanya

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Many types of musical instruments and noisemakers were created by the Aztecs. They created sounds using clay, sugarcane, turkey feathers and ores as well as frog skins and many other materials. But the most striking was the Aztec death whistle.

Conch shells were used for ceremonies and ocarinas to make animal grunts that attract deer. Flutes were used for traditional music entertainment. Researchers believe that sounds could have been used to treat mental and physical illnesses.

The Aztec Death Whistle was their most innovative invention.

Psychological Warfare of the Aztec Death Whistle

Imagine yourself preparing for war and ready to fight your enemy. The sound of hundreds upon hundreds of horses rushing towards you behind the hill is what you hear, then the screaming starts…

Your mind can only conjure up an army of undead screaming at the tops of their decrepit voices. Skeletons, zombies and other netherworldly creatures unleash their worst war cries to wipe out your calvary in the next 30 seconds.

This is what the Aztec death whistle achieved. It was as if you were fighting ordinary, mortal men just like yourself. But then, the agonizing screams of a thousand bodies woke you up. It’s not as terrifying as it sounds. This is a quick video to show you how it works. https://www.youtube.com/embed/I9QuO09z-SI?feature=oembed

These days, all you can find are copies. But Xavier Quijas Yxayotl allows us to hear the macabre sounds a true Death Whistle. In the video, he explains that they were used for Day of the Dead ceremonies and other ceremonies. However, their true purpose was psychological warfare to shake up the opposition military force before combat began. A cross-section of a death whistle showing the reverberation chamber

These instruments would be played by hundreds of warriors at once, sending chills down the spines their unsuspecting adversaries.

Aztec Death Whistle Discovery

People with Aztec ancestry were not always consulted, so it was no surprise that archaeologists didn’t bother to ask them about their skull-shaped whistles. They first discovered them almost 20 years ago, in 1999.

They dismissed them as ornaments or toys and assumed they were toys. They quickly made notes and filed them away with information about their size, shape, and resemblances to skulls.

Finally, someone has thought of blowing through the hole. Now these “mere toys”, are drawing the attention of musicians and historians alike.

https://7833ae1377d5caa4fa922decd4eae9b2.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html The whistle was discovered in the clutches of a sacrifice

They were found in an Aztec temple dedicated the wind god Ehecatl and held in the hand of the skeleton a male victim. This would explain why these strange musical instruments sound like ghosts roaring through the wind.

They now know where to look, but they don’t have enough to make them available to buy or play with. As you might expect, most are kept in museums.

Aztec Death Whistle Guide for the Afterlife

Roberto Velazquez Cabrera believes that he knows more about the story than most people believe. Since this mechanical engineer spent many years creating these death whistles to better understand their sounds, we are inclined to agree.

He founded the Mexico-based Instituto Virtual de Investigacion Tlapitzcalzin and used his extensive knowledge of the Aztecs as a basis for his conclusions.

Roberto writes in his article for MexicoLore that the death whistle was likely an unusual instrument. This explains why so many were found so late.

He claims that they were used in battle and Day of the Dead celebrations. However, they were also likely used during human sacrifice to guide the victims towards the afterlife. Both those who have sacrificed their lives and those who have lost enemies should be honored and assisted in their transition to the afterlife.

We have many mysteries to solve from pre-Columbian sound engineering and music, and the Aztec Death Whistle suggests that we might be better off this way.

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