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Raven Rattle

Arts of the Americas

Said to originate in the north, perhaps among the Tsimshian, the raven rattle is now considered an item of traditional regalia throughout the Northwest Coast. Chiefs use these rattles as part of their ceremonial dress in dances. This rattle depicts a shaman on the back of a raven. It has a frog in its mouth, another frog touches its tongue, and frogs are on the feet. The bottom also has a raven carved with abstracted figures. All these representations are transformative animals that relate to the legendary stories of the tribe, and the sound of rattles forms a conduit to the supernatural world when the rattles are employed by shamans. The use of the raven rattle always implies power. For example, it is used in dances that demonstrate the status of the chief, who has a hereditary right to use it.
MEDIUM Wood, pigment, rattles, cotton twine
DATES 19th century
DIMENSIONS 5 1/2 x 14 x 4 in. (14.0 x 35.6 x 10.2 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CREDIT LINE Museum Expedition 1905, Museum Collection Fund
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CAPTION Tsimshian (Native American). Raven Rattle, 19th century. Wood, pigment, rattles, cotton twine, 5 1/2 x 14 x 4 in. (14.0 x 35.6 x 10.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1905, Museum Collection Fund, 05.588.7292. Creative Commons-BY
IMAGE x-ray, detail, CONS.05.588.7292_2001_xrs_detail01.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2001
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION This rattle is called a raven rattle. It depicts a shaman on the back of a raven. The bird has a frog in its mouth, another frog touches tongues with the shaman, and frogs are on his feet. The bottom of the raven figure is carved.
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