The Aztec "death whistle" is a terrible invention of a vanished civilizationBy Pictolic https://pictolic.com/en/article/the-aztec-death-whistle-is-a-terrible-invention-of-a-vanished-civilization
It is hardly worth explaining what a whistle is — we have all been familiar with this simple "musical" instrument since childhood. Everyone knows that the sound of a whistle can be loud, sharp, unpleasant, but it's hard to believe that it can be chilling. But this is so — the ancient Aztecs managed to create a device that is quite capable of causing panic in an unprepared person.
For the first time, archaeologists discovered clay whistles in the form of grinning skulls in 1999 during excavations of the Aztec city-state of Tlatelolco, located on the territory of modern Mexico City. These two objects were lying at the feet of the skeleton of a decapitated man in the temple of the wind god Eekatl. The whistles were positioned as if someone had placed them in the victim's hands during an unknown ritual that took place 650 years ago, long before Columbus discovered America.
Unusual objects were mistaken for toys or some ritual objects that do not carry any practical load and put in a cardboard box marked "ritual jewelry". So they lay in the storage of artifacts for 15 years, until they accidentally caught the eye of Arnd Bot (Arnd Adje Both), a scientist who devoted his life to the study of musical instruments of ancient civilizations.
It was Arndt who first guessed to blow into one of the holes of the craft, which gave rise to an absolutely creepy sound that suggests the screams of sinners suffering in Hell.
Despite this dubious result, the scientist was incredibly happy, as the solution of the strange skulls from the sacrificial burial was much closer. Engineer and archaeologist Roberto Velasquez joined the study of objects immediately called "death whistles". It took him several years to understand their structure.
The clay whistles that seemed so primitive turned out to be not so easy to copy — the sound turned out to be absolutely not scary or very quiet. But perseverance, combined with modern technologies, gave a positive result and Velasquez managed to produce several "death whistles" that perfectly repeat the sound of the original.
The scientist commented on his success as follows:
Apparently, the Aztecs' perception of the world was very peculiar, but this fact does not make the discovery of Velasquez and Bot less significant for modern science.
After the true purpose of the whistles was discovered, they began to be found all over Mexico, and in very different versions. Of course — now the meaning of incomprehensible trinkets, which did not represent a special historical value for archaeologists, has become obvious and their value for science has increased significantly.
Today, whistles in the form of skulls, heads of fantastic creatures, gods, jaguars and other animals are known. The oldest copy — the "death whistle" in the form of a frog, dated back to 400 BC! This means that the tradition of making these instruments is very ancient and many generations of Aztecs have heard this terrible sound.
But the question of why the ancient Indians extracted hellish screams from scrolls still remains open. There are many hypotheses about the purposes for which this sound served. Some experts believe that the whistles were designed to put the participants of the sacrifices into a trance, others are sure that these devices were used to intimidate enemies. In fact, it is not difficult to imagine the effect of such an instrument in the night jungle — the most courageous warrior who is not familiar with the nature of the heart-rending sound can panic.
The work of scientists did not go unnoticed — "death whistles" immediately became a popular souvenir. Today, these items in a variety of designs can be found in souvenir shops throughout Latin America, ordered on Amazon or bought on eBay. Tourists enthusiastically accept performances in which an actor in the costume of an ancient Indian blows into a hellish instrument with all his might, causing horror and anguish to others.