Chavín de Huántar Archaeological Acoustics Project
An archaeoacoustic collaboration between Stanford University's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) and Archaeology/Anthropology


In September 2008, we made acoustic measurements of the Chavín Strombus galeatus marine shell trumpets, also known as "pututus", that were discovered in 2001. Data from these analyses was presented at the 2nd Pan American/Iberian Meeting on Acoustics, Cancún, Mexico, November 2010.

"Acoustic Analysis of the Chavín Pututus (Strombus galeatus marine shell trumpets)"
Perry R. Cook, Jonathan S. Abel, Miriam A. Kolar, Patty Huang, Jyri Huopaniemi, John W. Rick, Chris Chafe, John M. Chowning
Invited paper presented at 2nd Pan American/Iberian Meeting on Acoustics, Cancún, Mexico, November 2010.


In 2001, twenty Strombus galeatus marine shell trumpets were excavated at the 3,000 year-old ceremonial center at Chavín de Huántar, Perú, marking the first documented contextual discovery of intact sound-producing instruments at this Formative Period site in the Andean highlands. These playable shells are decorated and crafted for musical use with well-formed mouthpieces created by cutting the small end (spire) off and grinding/polishing the resulting opening. The shells are use-polished, and additionally modified with a v-shaped cut to the outer apical lip. We present an acoustic analysis of the measured response of each instrument, to a variety of excitations, at microphones placed in the mouthpiece, player's mouth, bore, bell, and surrounding near-field. From these measurements we characterize each instrument's sounding frequencies (fundamental and 1st overtone where possible), radiation pattern, and impedance, and we estimate the bore area function of each shell. Knowledge of the specific acoustic capabilities of these pututus allows us to understand and test their potential as sound sources in the ancient Chavín context, whose architectural acoustics are simultaneously studied by our research group.


New! October 2011: Dr. Perry Cook and researcher Miriam Kolar discuss measuring and studying the Chavín pututus.