Figure Whistle

Date: 3rd–7th century

Geography: Peru

Culture: Moche

Medium: Gold

Dimensions: H. 2 in. (5.1 cm)

Classification: Metal-Musical Instruments

Credit Line: Jan Mitchell and Sons Collection, Gift of Jan Mitchell, 1991

Accession Number: 1991.419.51


This small hollow figure whistle is made of hammered gold sheet joined along the sides. It is similar to the numerous ceramic whistles found in Moche houses and middle-status burials. Most ceramic whistles represent warriors holding ropes or clubs and wearing capes, large earspools, and headdresses ornamented with crescents or frontal disks. The man depicted here wears comparable attributes and once held an object in his right hand, between the thumb and index finger. Although many musicians are represented in Moche art, no whistle player is known in the imagery. However, many individuals whistling with their lips are represented, some of them holding a child with closed eyes. Scholars think that in Moche society, whistling was a sound produced to communicate with the ancestors when a human offering was made.