The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889
Not on view
In Greek mythology the conch shell trumpet was an attribute of Triton, the son of Neptune. Shell trumpets are also among the ancient symbols of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, the religions of sub-Saharan Africa and of Mayan civilization. To Polynesians of Mangara (Cook Islands) the penetrating blast of the conch shell represents the voice of Rongo, the god who gave fire to mankind. In Tonga, conch shells, (kele'a) may play in ensembles of 2 to 5 parts. Used also for signaling, the shells have a mouth hole either at the tip where it may be fitted with a mouthpiece or, as with this example, in the side.