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  • José H. Leal

Shell Music

Did you know that shells have been used for centuries as musical instruments? “There is no society without song, and there is no ritual or celebrations without accompanying sounds,” state the authors of an article published last year in ScienceAdvances (link below). In the article, C. Fritz and collaborators researched the oldest use of a shell as an instrument. Shells were among the first natural objects that lent themselves to use as instruments capable of producing variable sounds; in their article, the authors describe the history, features, and sounds generated by a horn crafted from a modified shell of Charonia lampas, found in an archaeological site in southern France.


Turning a shell of Charonia lampas into a musical instrument. From Fritz et al. 2021. Science Advances 7 (7).

The shell horn dates from at least 18,000 years ago! Charonia lampas lives around Europe and is known by English speakers as Knobbed Triton, or Red Triton. Interested in shells as musical instruments? Don’t miss the February 1st, 2022 lecture Shell Trumpets: The Sound Heard around the World, by Dr. Bradley Strauchen-Sherer, Curator of Musical Instruments, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. And read the entire article by Fritz et al. here.