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Incised Strombus-Shell Trumpet

Arts of the Americas

The blowing of conch-shell trumpets was an integral part of rituals at the ancient site of Chavín de Huántar. Stone slabs in certain underground spaces are carved with scenes of figures blowing shell trumpets, probably during public ceremonies. This example is decorated with the incised figure of a trumpet player from whose instrument a snake emerges, perhaps as a representation of its sacred sound and its connection with the spirit world. Today, local Indigenous people continue to blow conch shells to mark the beginning and end of public ceremonies.
MEDIUM Strombus shell
DATES 400–200 B.C.E.
PERIOD Formative Period
DIMENSIONS 11 1/4 x 7 1/8 x 11 1/4 in. (28.6 x 18.1 x 28.6 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
CREDIT LINE Anonymous Loan
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Strombus-shell trumpet with an elaborate, incised design of a human figure blowing on a conch shell with a cascade of serpents emanating from it, possibly alluding to the sacred nature of the sounds produced. The ancient Chavin people probably used shell trumpets during rituals because such activities are depicted on architectural friezes and monumental sculpture. Drill holes suggest that the piece could have been suspended on a cord, perhaps from the neck of a priest. Condition: excellent.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Chavin. Incised Strombus-Shell Trumpet, 400–200 B.C.E. Strombus shell, 11 1/4 x 7 1/8 x 11 1/4 in. (28.6 x 18.1 x 28.6 cm). Anonymous Loan, L52.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, L52.1_transp5626.jpg)
IMAGE overall, L52.1_transp5626.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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