"The Sound of Death": The mysterious Aztec whistles are coming to the West!

When the time had come to attack an enemy group or to defend oneself, the use of this instrument gave the adversary the feeling that the number of Aztec fighters was much more important.

 Shaped like a human skull, a lizard or a monkey face, the ancient Aztecs used the "death" whistles during fights. Their goal? Thanks to a particular internal structure, these devices, which exist in different sizes, "multiply" the number of soldiers, because the sound they produce resembles the cries of the combatants.

Therefore, when attacking an enemy group or defending it, making them sound would give the enemy the feeling that the number of Aztec fighters was much greater and would even stun the enemy.

Despite his age, at least 500 years old, interest in his study began in the late 20th century, following several discoveries of tombs where the body lay next to several of these devices. In fact, it was the engineer Roberto Velázquez Cabrera who, after exhaustive research on these instruments, coined the term "death whistles".


One of the archaeologists who discovered the burial site, and therefore one of the first people to hear the sound of these whistles after several centuries, described this sound as "the cry of death itself".

However, other theories indicate a ceremonial use of these pieces, to be used in human sacrifices with which good harvests were begged to the god of the wind, Ehecatl, to cause rain. Other experts prefer to attribute to them curative properties, used to achieve a state of "relaxation" when combined with a certain type of hallucinogenic drug.

And now these "Aztec death whistles" are coming to the West, more precisely to Spain, thanks to an exhibition at the ExpoLab of the Interactive Music Museum of Malaga (MIMMA) (available until April 12, 2020).

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