The mechanism of operation of the Aztec "whistle of death"
The mechanism of operation of the Aztec "whistle of death"

It is hardly worth explaining what a whistle is - we are all familiar with this simple "musical" instrument since childhood. Everyone knows that the sound of a whistle can be loud, harsh, 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 was quite capable of causing panic in an unprepared person.

For the first time, clay whistles in the form of bared skulls were discovered by archaeologists in 1999 during excavations of the Aztec city-state of Tlatelolco, located on the territory of modern Mexico City. These two objects lay 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 items were mistaken for toys or some kind of ritual objects that do not carry any practical load and were 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 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 eerie sound that suggests the screams of sinners tormented in Hell.

Despite this dubious result, the scientist was incredibly happy, since the solution to the strange skulls from the sacrificial burial was significantly closer. The engineer and archaeologist Roberto Velasquez joined in the study of objects that immediately became known as the "whistles of death". 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 technology, gave a positive result and Velasquez managed to make several "whistles of death", ideally repeating the sound of the original.

The scientist commented on his success as follows:

Until now, ancient civilizations have been dumb to us. But this find gives these peoples a voice. Now we can understand a little better who they were, how they felt, how they perceived the world.

Apparently, the perception of the world among the Aztecs was very peculiar, but this fact does not make the discovery of Velazquez and Bot less significant for modern science.

After the true purpose of whistles was discovered, they began to be found throughout Mexico, and in very different designs. Still, now the meaning of incomprehensible trinkets, which were not of special historical value for archaeologists, became 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 specimen - the "death whistle" in the form of a frog, dates back to 400 BC! This means that the tradition of making these instruments is very ancient and many generations of the Aztecs heard this terrible sound.

But the question - why the ancient Indians extracted hellish cries from the scrolls, still remains open. There are many hypotheses about the purpose for which this sound served. Some experts believe that the whistles were designed to put the participants in the sacrifices into a trance, while 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 brave warrior who is not familiar with the nature of the heartbreaking sound can panic.

The work of scientists did not go unnoticed - the "whistles of death" immediately became a popular souvenir. Today, these items in a wide variety of designs can be found in gift shops throughout Latin America, ordered on Amazon or bought on eBay. Tourists enthusiastically accept performances in which an actor dressed as an ancient Indian blows with all his urine into a hellish instrument, causing horror and melancholy to those around him.

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