South American armadillo guitar
The charango is a type of guitar originating in South America in the 1700s that uses an armadillo shell as a soundbox.
In the Andes Mountains, where the charango developed, trees were sparse making wood a rare commodity. Native armadillos, called quirquincho, were readily available and their rounded, armored skeleton made an excellent guitar soundbox. The use of a shell to make a soundbox actually isn’t that unusual. Bones and shells of numerous creatures have been used to make musical instruments for thousands of years.
The charango was fitted with five courses of strings, ten in all. The small size of the shell limited the instrument’s size, making it seem disproportionately small in comparison to the wide neck needed to hold ten strings.
Today, the quirquincho armadillo is an endangered species. Charangos in South America are no longer made with armadillo shells. Instead, they are made from wood such as cedar or chestnut and carved to resemble an armadillo shell.
National GUITAR Museum
Time Period: 1690 - 1820
This artifact is currently on view.