The song of air and water: Acoustic experiments with an Ecuadorian Whistle Bottle (c.900 BC–100 BC)

Mónica Amparo Ayala Esparza1, Galo Fernando Gallardo Carrillo*2 and Miguel Molina-Alarcón1

1. Universitat Politècnica de València (España)
2. * Corresponding author. Universidad Central del Ecuador. Email:

Cite this as: Ayala Esparza, M. A., Gallardo Carrillo, G.F. and Molina-Alarcón, M. 2019 The song of air and water: Acoustic experiments with an Ecuadorian Whistle Bottle (c.900 BC–100 BC), Internet Archaeology 52.


Double ellipsoide ornithomorph bottle with a whistle of the Chorrera-Bahía culture, located in the Archaeological Reserve of Ministry of Cultura in the city of Quito-Ecuador. Photograph Mónica Ayala.

In Ecuador, bottles as containers for liquids appeared in the Late Formative period at the end of the Machalilla culture (1600 BC to 800 BC). Whistle bottles were created and perfected during the Chorrera culture (900 BC to 100 BC), and finally evolved into polyphonic bottles during the Bahía culture (500 BC to 650 AD). During the Chorrera phase, moulded aesthetic elements were developed and incorporated:, such as zoomorphs and anthropomorphs, phytomorphs, architectural forms, whose animated references were related to the acoustics they produced, giving 'onomatopoeic' sounds of nature (e.g. birds, monkeys, frogs). The current research focused on the structural and systematic study of a double ellipsoid ornithomorph bottle with a whistle from the Chorrera-Bahía culture (900 BC to 100 BC), an object that is currently in the National Archaeological Reserve of the Ministry of Culture in the city of Quito, Republic of Ecuador (Ch-B-1-38-69) (Figure 1). Two replicas and the original were investigated in situ by the Universidad Central del Ecuador and it was possible to determine that both blowing into and moving the objects when filled with water produced the sound. We interpret this as a need to 'automate' the sound production, and the acoustics derived from the movement of water is what possibly motivated Crespo (1966) to call them 'magical objects'.

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