Whistling Jars Item in Four Quadrants | World Anvil
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Whistling Jars

by hughpierre
A complex vessel with a whistle cavity built inside a sculptural shape that represents the animal being mimicked.

Mechanics & Inner Workings


Whistling jars are double-chambered bottles consisting of two chambers connected to one another by a hollow passageway between them. They are used in ceremonial and secular rituals as entertainment.
Holes formed in single, duet or triplicate orientation.
Two Bodies
Double globular, flat-bottom chambers containing and is apart of the whistle mechanism.
Two Necks
The spouts with everted lips where air or water enter.
Bridge Handle
Connects the hollow bodies for ease of carrying.
Part of the whistle chamber that direct fluid across the sphere's opening; creating the whistling sound.
Modeled Figure
The surface shallow engravings at the top and sides of the bodies.


The two bodies of the vessel are filled with water depending on what kind of sound the user wants to produce. Lower levels produce high pitch sounds, while higher levels of water produce lower pitch sounds. Typically, the bodies are filled with approximately halfway because if they are too full, the bottle will not make any sound; space must be left for air in the hollow chambers.   The bottle is tilted so that the majority of the liquid passes out from one side, where the whistle is located, into the other. Then the bottle must be tilted in the other direction so that the water flows back into the body where the whistle is. Thus, the bottle can produce a whistling sound every time it is tilted back in forth.

Manufacturing process

Direct Molding

  1. A mixture of terracotta, shells and water makes the clay pliable and less likely to crack
  2. Two half-molds make one hollow vessel with a wide mouth and narrow neck
  3. Form a small clay ball and attach it to the bottom of the jar's interior
  4. Attach a thin clay strip from the rim of the jar to the small ball, creating a smooth tube, shaped as the whistle to ensure proper airflow
  5. Once the jar is mostly dry, use a pebble to rub and smash the surface, creating a smooth and glossy finish through burnishing
  6. Paint and take precautions to protect the designs during firing
  7. Fire the jar in a kiln to harden
  8. Once cooled, test the whistle by pouring water into the vessel and tilting it to produce whistling sounds. Adjust the water level to achieve the desired pitch.



Following being burnished, devotions to the gods are embodied by their imagery surrounded by raised dots in relief; or symbols reflective of different historical and mythical ideologies specific to their society.
Each piece tells a story, whether a myth of the gods or an account of the potter himself.
— Dara
Birds are the most common animal carved and can emit sounds of chirping, clucking, cooing, cawing, warbling, piping, screeching, squawking, hooting or tooting. Other depictions include:
  • a snoring man
  • a glugging fish
  • a raspy alligator
  • a hissing cat
  • a whooping child
  • a howling dog
  • a rattling snake
  • a clicking llama
  • a humming beetle
  • an orgling llama
  • a groaning bear
  • a shrieking rodent
  • a snorting monkey
  • a singing whale
  • a barking seal

  • Item type
    Musical Instrument
    Current Location
    Related ethnicities
    Owning Organization
    Raw materials & Components
  • Red Clay
  • White Clay
  • Terracotta
  • Paint
  • Water
  • Mollusk Shells
  • Tools
  • Kiln
  • Smooth Stone
  • Death Whistles
    Item | Aug 3, 2020


    Author's Notes

    Daeni's Unofficial Scavenger Hunt Challenge
    Generic article | Dec 2, 2023

    Please Login in order to comment!
    Dec 1, 2023 23:46 by jyliet of the house

    This is so charming and delightful! I love the attention that you put into the manufacturing process and the many examples of sounds that they can produce. Some very cool specific sounds.

    Dec 2, 2023 00:00

    Thank you! Crafting those sounds was fun. Here's to the delightful world of sounds!

    Jan 5, 2024 15:27 by Devin

    I love the depth of thought put into this - musical instruments are such an integral part of different cultures, but coming up with new ones can be challenging and I love this one you came up with!

    Jan 6, 2024 21:57

    I appreciate that. These instruments have a historical basis but it was some long research and guesswork in how they were actually made.

    Jan 26, 2024 21:52 by Bob O'Brien

    Sounds like the perfect gift for the Bard that has everything! How long do they continue to sound? Long enough to provide accompaniment to a musical piece (much like the drone pipes of a bagpipe or the drone-strings of a hurdy-gurdy?

    Check out my latest efforts:
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