c. 300–200 BCE
more object details

General Description

Paracas musical instruments are rare, yet music almost certainly figured in Paracas religious festivals. The sounds of ceramic trumpets such as this one may have accompanied these celebrations. The remarkable length of this instrument must have necessitated either an extra person or a brace to support it when it was played.

The trumpet represents one of the styles of fineware pottery characteristic of the Paracas cultural tradition. The clay was coiled into a long tapering shaft, and a figure was incised on the flaring bell. The instrument was fired and then painted with resin paints. The human representation that decorates the bell has some of the attributes of a mythical figure called the Oculate Being, including large multiple-circle eyes and long, curved streamers (two with serpent-head finials) that emanate from the head. This disproportionately large head may represent a mask of the supernatural. Whether a depiction of an Oculate Being or of a human being costumed as one, the presence of a supernatural image on the trumpet elevates the function of the instrument to a ritual realm.

Excerpt from

Label text, A. H. Meadows Galleries.

Fun Facts

  • A thermoluminescence test, which can be used to date buried objects, was conducted 2/28/86 by V.J. Bortolot at DAYBREAK Nuclear and Medical Systems, Inc. (Guilford, CT). Results indicated that the sample was last fired between 1,900 and 4,500 years ago.
  • Although a few other Paracas ceramic trumpets are known, this one is almost certainly the largest and in the best condition. Both qualities make it eminently desirable as a Museum exhibition piece. The primary image on the flared bell of the trumpet is the "occulate being," a name derived from the prominence given his eyes in all representations. It is likely that this deity has close connections with agricultural success.

Web Resources

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Read more about music in the Andes.