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Ancient shell trumpets heard again

Palo Alto, Calif. -- Researchers have put their lips to ancient, ornately decorated conch-shell "trumpets" to recreate sounds from a pre-Incan Peruvian civilization, scientists say.

Acoustic researchers using 3,000-year-old shells found at a pre-Inca religious site say the powerfully haunting and droning music could have been used in religious ceremonies, reported Friday.

"You can really feel it in your chest," Jonathan Abel, an acoustics expert at Stanford University, said. "It has a rough texture like a tonal animal roar."

Archaeologists found 20 complete Strombus galeatus marine shell trumpets in 2001 at Chavin de Huantar, an ancient ceremonial center in the Andes.
The shells were polished, painted and etched with symbols.

Like a bugle, each shell instrument could only sound one or two tones, but like on a French horn, the player could change the pitch by placing his hand into the shell, the researchers say.

The researchers reported their analysis Wednesday at the Second Pan-American/Iberian Meeting on Acoustics in Cancun, Mexico.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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