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Engraved Conch Shell

Arts of the Americas

On View: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
The engraving on this shell depicts a falcon warrior wearing a beaked mask, a cloak of feathers, and ear spools. Vomit or a speech scroll emanates from his mouth. Falcon regalia connect the human warrior to the sky realm, giving him special powers. Interior Mississippian tribes traveled to the coast in great numbers in the springtime to gather conch shells, using them as ceremonial cups to hold a liquid made from the yaupon plant. They would then drink the “black tea” in order to induce vomiting, a purging action of cleansing the body as a form of transformative prayer.


El grabado en esta caracola representa a un guerrero halcón llevando una máscara con pico, manto de plumas y aretes. Vómito o volutas de palabra emanan de su boca. La vestimenta de halcón conecta al guerrero humano con el mundo celestial, otorgándole poderes especiales. Las tribus del interior del Mississippi viajaban a la costa en grandes números en primavera para recolectar caracolas, que utilizaban como copas ceremoniales para sostener un líquido hecho de la planta yaupon. Ellos bebían entonces el “té negro” para inducir vómito, una acción purgante de limpieza del cuerpo como una forma de plegaria de transformación.


MEDIUM Conch shell, pigment
DATES 1200-1500 C.E.
PERIOD Mississippi Period
DIMENSIONS Falcon warrior: 10 7/16 x 7 1/2 x 5 1/2 in. (26.5 x 19.1 x 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
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CAPTION Mississippian (Native American). Engraved Conch Shell, 1200-1500 C.E. Conch shell, pigment, Falcon warrior: 10 7/16 x 7 1/2 x 5 1/2 in. (26.5 x 19.1 x 14 cm). Brooklyn Museum, By exchange, 60.53.1. Creative Commons-BY
IMAGE overall, 60.53.1_acetate_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
"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 form 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 Best (86%)
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Engraved Conch Shell