Skip Navigation

Engraved Conch Shell

Arts of the Americas

On View: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
The engraving on this shell from Spiro Mounds, in eastern Oklahoma (see photograph), depicts a falcon warrior wearing a beaked mask, a feathered cloak, and ear spools with a speech scroll, or vomit from ritual purging, emanating from its mouth. Falcon-themed regalia were intended to connect the human warrior to the sky realm, giving him special powers. Interior Mississippian tribes traveled to the Gulf Coast in the springtime to gather conch shells, using them as cups to hold a liquid made from the yaupon plant (Ilex vomitoria). The many shell cups with yaupon residue discovered in ceremonial centers throughout the Mississippian world reveal that this caffeinated tea was consumed during religious rituals.
CULTURE Mississippian
MEDIUM Conch shell, pigment
DATES 1200-1500 C.E.
PERIOD Mississippi Period
DIMENSIONS Falcon warrior: 10 7/16 × 7 1/2 × 5 1/2 in. (26.5 × 19.1 × 14 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
ACCESSION NUMBER 60.53.1
CREDIT LINE By exchange
RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact copyright@brooklynmuseum.org.
CAPTION Mississippian. Engraved Conch Shell, 1200-1500 C.E. Conch shell, pigment, Falcon warrior: 10 7/16 × 7 1/2 × 5 1/2 in. (26.5 × 19.1 × 14 cm). Brooklyn Museum, By exchange, 60.53.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 60.53.1_view01_PS11.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 60.53.1_view01_PS11.jpg., 2019
"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 Engraved conch shell depicting bird-man with beaked mask and "speech scroll" coming from mouth. Engraved lines are painted with brown pigment. Streamer lines extend from head. Perforated spool in ear. The arms are extended with feathered wings hanging down. Feet are claws. Wears ankle band, necklace and belt. Such conch shells were used as cups to hold a drink made from yaupon leaves used as a purge during ceremonies.
RECORD COMPLETENESS
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.
Mississippian. <em>Engraved Conch Shell</em>, 1200-1500 C.E. Conch shell, pigment, Falcon warrior: 10 7/16 × 7 1/2 × 5 1/2 in. (26.5 × 19.1 × 14 cm). Brooklyn Museum, By exchange, 60.53.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 60.53.1_view01_PS11.jpg)