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Taino - Shell Trumpets

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

The Taino, the Indigenous people of the Caribbean, like many other island cultures around the world used the conch shell as an instrument of communication.

The Taino began all of their ceremonies with the blowing of the guamo, also known as a bototu (a conch shell trumpet). The blowing of the horn sent away all negativity, summoned the Ancestors and served as a signal to all that the ceremony was about to begin. Many of these island cultures considered, and still consider, the sound of the shell trumpet to be the voice of God.

These instruments were used to signal entrance to a village, births, ceremonies, and communication in general. For instance, the guamo would be blown to the four cardinal directions during birth, death, naming or marriage ceremonies. Each of the Taino Behique (medicine person or shaman) had at least one sacred guamo in his collection as they were to be used in healing ceremonies.

Many of the Taino carried at least a small shell trumpet, which was usually carried hanging from their waist. The guamo was used to make announcements such as an arrival or departure of travelers.

If on foot, the trumpet could be blown to signal your approach and indicate your friendly intentions, thus preventing you from being attacked by Taino sentinels. Travelers out on the open sea at night could blow a guamo and determine if they were near land. If near land, the sound from the guamo would echo back to them and if they were not, the sound would just fade away.

Photo below: Carved Conch Shell

Taino 1200 - 1650 AD


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