Double-spout strap-handle vessel depicting a falcon

500–400 BCE
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General Description

The deserts of Peru’s Paracas peninsula, whose name means “sand falling like rain,” have preserved fragile objects deposited in cemeteries there some two thousand years ago. In the late 1920s, Peruvian archaeologists recovered more than 400 textile-wrapped funerary bundles from Paracas excavations, and ceramic vessels attributable to the Paracas culture have been found on the peninsula and in nearby valleys. The best-known Paracas pottery type is an incised vessel enhanced by the application of resin-based paint after firing. This example, with its beautifully preserved paint, is also characteristic in form: a rounded base and two spouts are joined by a flat strap or bridge, which functioned as a handle. The body of a bird spreads gracefully over the hemispheric chamber, while a modeled head forms the base of one spout. The chevron motif below each eye identifies the bird as a falcon, a frequent theme in Paracas art.

Excerpt from

Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Vessel depicting a falcon (1976.W.85)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 24.

Fun Facts

  • In his 1976 report, Junius B. Bird, curator emeritus of South American archaeology at the American Museum of Natural History, notes: "M30. Exceptionally fine preservation, double-spout strap handle water jar. Hawk head on one spout, base with feet, wings, body and tail draped over jar. Guilloche band at bottom."

Web Resources

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