had a strong influence on the regions where it is found.
Conch has been and continues in some areas as a prime
source of protein. In the Keys and throughout the Bahamas
and West Indies conch was a major source of food.
Columbus's crew according to his logs ate conch after
gleaning conch shells from the waters of Cuba.
Archaeologists' excavations show that the conch was used
by Indians as food, and as a tool. It is thought that
pre-Columbian Indians possibly use the conch shell to
make the huge canoes that Columbus observed Indians using
during his visits to the New World. Columbus described
canoes five feet in width and upward of 70 feet in length
which were made of mahogeny tree trunks such that the
centers were burned and chiseled out.
settlements from the time before Columbus show that the
Conch shell was used as scraper, scoop or dipper, hammer,
gouge, chisel and eating dish. The shell was also used as
a trumpet. Ancient West Indian civilizations have
worshiped idols made from conch shells.
used the conch shell for ornamentation and decoration and
as a valuable trade object. The Arawak Indians of the
West Indies created bracelets, amulets, necklaces,
hairpins, and buttons from conch shells. In the Bahamas
craftmen still create cameos from part of the shell. A
link to a beautiful carving in a conch shell is provided
Shell as Art
- Beautiful cinnabar Mayan tracings of a king's face
incised on the surface of this conch-shell trumpet
thought to be the personage summoned when the trumpet
was used in a bloodletting rite. Pre-Columbian, (A.D.
shells have been made into horns for centuries. In
addition to their use in religious rites, the conch-shell
trumpet had many practical uses. They were used by
Indians to communicate from village to village and were
used to initiate battles. Historic accounts of Hernando
DeSoto's explorations of Florida tell of Indian tribes
greeting his explorer with the sounds from conch-shell
trumpets. And in the cane fields of the West Indies
slaves were summoned at the end of each work day by the
sound of a conch trumpet.
the present time conch shells are used as trumpets. Sea
captains, sailors and fishermen signal each other with
them. Conch blowing contests are a part of present day
Key West celebrations.
Make a Conch Trumpet
shells and horns make a great souvenier of the Florida
Keys.You can purchase a shell from one of the many shell
stores located along the Overseas Highway in the Florida
Keys. You can also purchase an already made conch horn
for a bit more.
To make a
horn all one needs to do is to saw off an inch the tip of
the Conch shell spire. With the tip gone a spiral shaped
center column called the columella will be exposed. You
then chip out about one half inch of culumella and smooth
the cut edges with a rasp to fashion a comfortable
mouthpiece to trumpet on. You must curl you lips as with
a trumpet letting your lips vibrate as you blow to create
a conch horn sound. Large shells have more volume and
thus will create as deeper sound. Small shells will
produce a tone with a higher pitch.
Queen Conch is now protected by Florida and Federal law.
Once abundant in the Key, the Key's most famous shell was
banned from be harvested in United States waters in 1985
because its population as been severely depleted.
is still harvested elsewhere in the Caribbean but with
government control. Conch is still a major food source in
the Bahama Islands, but permission must be obtained from
the Bahamian Government to export conch food products.
Permission is also needed to export conch shells for use
in the production of the floor covering material
into the conch
along the Florida Keys shows that in some areas of the
Florida Keys, conchs are starting to come back. In some
areas they are not.
had to be protected because it is the favorite food of
many. In the Keys locals and tourists eat conch dishes.
Any conch product or preparation eaten in the Keys has
been imported from the Bahamas or other Caribbean
prepared properly to soften the texture of the meat many
people consider conch to be among the choicest seafoods
of the world. In the Florida Keys restaurants often will
include on their menu conch fritters, conch seviche,
conch salad, a marinated dish called cracked conch and of
course the ever popular conch chowder.
the pharmacitical companies development of viagra and
other similar products, aphrodisiacs of the past seem to
have lost favor. Cooked conch, pickeled conch and raw
conch meat have been considered to be an aphrodisiac. Of
note, particularly in the West Indies a rod shaped
portion of the conch's stomach called the "crystalline
style" is swallowed by males as they proclaim "It will
make you a Mon man".