Listen to the blood-curdling screamy sound of an ancient Aztec death whistle

Twenty-five years ago, archaeologists excavating the Pyramids of Tlatelolco in Mexico City found the skeleton of a 20-year-old man who had been sacrificed around the 16th century. In his hands were two curious whistles decorated with the faces of skulls. The strange musical device was an Aztec "death whistle." You can hear someone play a recreation of this whistle above. And here's a prior post about how a man annoyed his family with his own 3D-printed version.

From HowStuffWorks:

Today, if you Google "Aztec death whistle," you'll find articles claiming that the "haunting shrieks" of the death whistle were used to "terrify" the Aztecs' enemies in battle or to mimic the agonizing cries of sacrificial victims as their living hearts were torn from their chests. You can also watch this popular video clip (below) of the late musician Xavier Yxayotl conjuring blood-chilling sounds from an oversized death whistle.

But the sober truth, experts say, is that we know very little about how the Aztecs really used these intriguing instruments or even how the instruments actually sounded when played by an ancient Aztec priest or musician. What we can safely infer from the find in Mexico City, is that death whistles undoubtedly had ritual and ceremonial significance, and that they may have been used to guide the spirits of the dead through the afterlife.

More: "The Death Whistle" by Roberto Velázquez Cabrera (Mexicolore)

image: Jennysnest (CC BY-SA 4.0)