Many indigenous groups believe that the world was formed upon a turtle's back. This symbology and belief is imbued into the turtle shell rattles, which are meant to keep rhythm and thereby interjects powerful symbology and spiritual energy into dances and ceremonies.
Musical instruments have a deep ancient history in human society and are encoded with meanings beyond their sound making capabilities. Researchers from the Florida State University 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.
The researchers noted that turtle shell rattles have been found throughout North America, ranging from Florida to the Northeast and into Canada.