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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Costa Rican Musical Instruments : Shaman Effigy Whistle
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Shaman Effigy Whistle - PF.4140
Origin: Costa Rica
Circa: 500 AD to 800 AD
Dimensions: 5.875" (14.9cm) high x 3.75" (9.5cm) wide
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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Whistles were a form of musical instruments from the New World. They were found in high- status tombs. This intriguing whistle suggests its use in rituals and ceremonies. This whistle is in the shape of a shaman that symbolizes the spiritual and mythological beliefs of the Costa Ricans. Perhaps they used this whistle during hallucinogenic trances to heighten the shaman’s enlightenment and overall experience. Therefore, the ceremonies and rituals they used this instrument in were important to the health security of the tribe. The artistic depiction of this shaman is burnished in a brown color. This figure is highly stylized. The facial features of the shaman depict him as if he is in a trance. The eyes are not clearly defined, but the nose and mouth are rendered with expertise. The arms loop out and around, and the hands are placed on his hips. The earlobes have hallowed out holes that go through the entire head in order to suspend this object from the neck. The two legs make the front support of the tripod while an amphibious tail serves as the third leg and as the air hole. There is another large hole in the center of the back that is the blowhole to this whistle. Musical instruments with symbolic importance such as this one are a rarity. This unique piece gives us a glimpse into the culture of ritualistic, spiritual and domestic activities of the Costa Ricans. - (PF.4140)


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