Art/ Collection/ Art Object


19th century
Central African
Human skull, wood, antelope horn, skin, gut, hair
5 1/8 × 14 3/8 × 5 1/2 in. (13 × 36.5 × 14 cm)
Credit Line:
The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889
Accession Number:
Not on view
This unusual piece was purchased at the end of the 19th century and was originally thought to have come from South America when it was cataloged in 1906. It was eventually reattributed to Central Africa, although there is no known tradition to which this instrument may be assigned. Some have suggested that it may have been made for symbolic or clandestine ritual use, but most likely it is a sensational item made by a clever indigenous entrepreneur for trade and profit with Europeans in the 19th century.
Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown
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