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.
Conch shell, pigment
Falcon warrior: 10 7/16 × 7 1/2 × 5 1/2 in. (26.5 × 19.1 × 14 cm) (show scale)
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.
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)
overall, 60.53.1_view01_PS11.jpg., 2019
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