Turtles served as more than tasty treats for many Native American tribes throughout North America. In fact, turtle shells were used as rattles and other musical instruments, said FSU Associate Professor of Anthropology Tanya Peres.

“Music is an important part of many cultures in ways we may not realize,” Peres said. “Musical instruments have a deep ancient history in human society and are encoded with meanings beyond their sound making capabilities.”

Andrew Gillreath-Brown.

Peres and lead author Andrew Gillreath-Brown, a doctoral candidate from Washington State University, published their research in the academic journal PLOS One.

The researchers examined the use of turtle shells as percussion instruments in the southeastern United States. They identified and analyzed several partial Eastern box turtle shells from middle Tennessee archaeological sites that they believe were used as rattles.

In the past, turtle shells found at archaeological sites were often dismissed as food remains.

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