The Materiality of Sound: Detecting Performing Patterns On Two Mesoamerican Bone Rasps

Author(s): Valeria Bellomia

Year: 2017


This presentation focuses on some results of an interdisciplinary study carried out on two scraping idiophones made of human bones from ancient Mesoamerica (omichicahuaztli). Both the instruments are today on exhibit at the Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico "Luigi Pigorini" in Rome. The detailed analysis of the bone surfaces allowed us to reconstruct the taphonomic processes that affected the bones and the steps employed to transform them into musical instruments. Our research team organized marks into an operational stratigraphy, reconstructing the sequence of stages in production and use: raw material procurement, cleaning, shaping, decoration and finally use-wear patterns. Marks related to this last stage were useful in detecting the performing pattern of the instruments. Once we obtained these material data, we could play both the instruments in a recording session, using their original scraping tools, which are an Oliva shell and a human fibula. This allowed us to analyze the acoustic characteristics of the instruments and to replicate their sound in the exhibiting space, giving museum visitors the possibility to "listen to", and not only "look at", both the omichicahuaztli, although behind a museum glass.

Cite this Record

The Materiality of Sound: Detecting Performing Patterns On Two Mesoamerican Bone Rasps. Valeria Bellomia. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431096)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15887