Cultural Context: Tlingit style (Northwest Coast)
Origin: Alaska (United States)
Medium: Wood, vegetable fibre and pigments
Technique: Carved, incised, painted and perforated
Dimensions: Length = 32.5 cm; Width = 9.8 cm
Inventory no.: 13907
A wooden rattle in the shape of a bird divided into two halves, hollow inside and decorated with red paint and incisions. On the back is a nude male figure lying on his back. The body of the rattle has incised representations of a human face. This rattle is a type of percussion instrument frequently used by Tlingit chiefs or shamans during ritual ceremonies, and is part of the clothing and attributes used to distinguish them from other members of the tribe. In the cosmology of these groups, shamans are the intermediaries between men and spirits, and rattles are used to communicate with the spirits. Rattles can sometimes take the form of a protective spirit, animals that transform and tell the stories or legends of the clan's origin. The bird depicted here is possibly the thunderbird, emblem of the tribal chief, while the male figure could be personifying the shaman himself. This piece is part of a group of objects collected in the last third of the 18th century in the course of the various Spanish scientific expeditions that reached this region.