Music & Ritual: Bridging Material & Living Cultures

Publications of the ICTM Study Group on Music Archaeology, Vol. 1

Sounds for Gods, Sounds for Humans: Triton Shell Horns in Phoenician and Punic Contexts from the Western Mediterranean

Antonio M. Sáez Romero and José M. Gutiérrez López

The use of seashells of the genus Charonia as conch trumpets both in ritual contexts and in multiple aspects of the societies of the ancient world is well attested by archaeological and written sources in many areas of the Mediterranean. However, this pattern has remained almost unnoticed thus far in the Punic western area (including also the Atlantic Coast), with little mention by the Greco-Latin authors and even more exiguous published archaeological remains. The available information and new archaeological data are evaluated, focusing on the presence of Triton shell horns in diverse contexts of Phoenician and Punic period located in the Straits of Gibraltar region. These new findings come mostly from well-dated stratified contexts, which made possible a precise approach to its functionalities, thus allowing this information to facilitate an outline of certain issues, such as the dating of these seashells or their relationship with particular environments. Consequently, we will put an emphasis on the multifunctional role that these items seem to have played in the western Mediterranean Punic area, attested to both by ritual contexts as well as by location, such as primary settlements or industrial workshops (in this case, essentially related to fishing tasks).

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