Thursday, May 4, 2017

Bird water whistle: Around The World From 80 Countries

Birds (the subjects of the last two posts) provide a common motif in many cultures.  The odd-looking vessel with the bird head pictured below is from the Moche Valley along the coast of northern Peru.

Peruvian ceramic bird water whistle

During the period 900 A.D. to 1470 A.D., this area was home to the Chimú people. Much of their pottery was, as this is, black with incised lines and a strap or stirrup handle. Bird, animal, or human forms were common features. But this object is more than a container for water.  It's also a whistle!  The two round chambers are connected near the bottom.  As water enters the side with the vertical tube, it pushes air across the edge of a whistle in the bird's head.  Tilting the vessel from side to side causes the air to swirl, making a bubbling or warbling sound. There are no graphic representations of them being used so archaeologists do not know whether they had domestic uses, were played as musical instruments, or used in spiritual ceremonies. 

Although such vessels made throughout Central and South America during the pre-conquest period, there use seems to have died out until the idea reappeared in the form of small plastic warbling bird toys. 

This object was one of many donated for our museum collection by Louis C. Raymond.  Others, which are included in our 2017 "Around The World From 80 Countries" exhibition include the shawl and silver mining objects from Bolivia, the barley popper from Chile, the chocolate pot from Brazil, the spindle from Colombia, the drawing from Honduras. 

My next blog will tell about the fascinating life of this museum donor.

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon 

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