This pottery ocarina, a type of flute, is both a musical instrument and a representation of spiritual beings. It was made of terracotta clay in pre-Columbian Costa Rica in the form of a toucan---and also a pig, a bird and a creature with a fox-like face and long, upcurved horn. All of these incarnations depend, of course, on which way the ocarina is turned. The eyes are carved out circles on the toucan and the bird, with holes for the eyes of the pig and the horned animal. There are also designs carved into the clay, simple slashes and grooves. Archaeologists have found ocarinas like this that date as old as 4500 years ago.
Ocarinas are technically called globular aerophones and also vessel flutes--different from a regular flute in that they have closed bodies that the air is blown into. The mouthpiece on this one is the snout of the pig, still playable, with 6 large holes and 6 small ones distributed over the piece. It measures 4 inches long from the tip of the toucan's bill to the tip of the pig's snout and 4 inches tall (as posed in our first two photos) and weighs 5 ounces. Its surface is weathered and pitted, as expected, with one fine hairline between the round eyes if the bird (as posed in photo # 9), but no real damage. New copies of ocarinas like this one, made to look ancient, are being made today in Costa Rica, but beyond the fact that they are not weathered but smooth-surfaced, they are, oddly enough, cruder and less artistic than the originals. This is a handsome artifact, a wonderful sculptured display of Central American art.