Reviving the Ancient Sounds of Mesoamerican Ocarinas


Mar 31, 2016, 6:00 pm


Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA

Lecture and Performance

Jose Cuellar, Professor Emeritus of Latina/Latino Studies, San Francisco State University

Clay ocarinas are thought to be the most common musical instruments used by pre-Columbian societies in Mesoamerica. While little is known about the making and function of these wind instruments—often shaped in animal or human forms—their study reveals that they were associated with both sacred and secular activities. In 2012, musician and ethnologist Jose Cuellar researched the Peabody Museum’s extensive collection of clay ocarinas, flutes, and whistles from archaeological sites throughout Central America and Mexico. In this program he will discuss his findings about these ancient musical instruments and the people who made and played them, and he will also demonstrate their sounds using contemporary ocarinas.

Related exhibition: Ocarinas of the Americas: Music Made in Clay