Weathervanes were one of the first instruments to detect changes in the weather by pointing in the direction from which the wind was blowing. The earliest known weathervane is a large figure of the Greek sea god, Triton. It was mounted on top of the Tower of Winds in Athens during the first century B.C. In the ninth century, Vikings were the next to use weathervanes. In the ninth century they mounted them atop their masts. Over the years, a variety of ornaments have been created to display various cultural themes.
Before there was modern technology to predict the weather, many people relied on a weathervane to predict storms and changes in the weather. Today, however, weathervanes are not only functional, but treasured as collectible works of art and garden décor.
Weathervanes were a common in early America and could be found on meeting halls, churches, public buildings and other tall structures, so they could be seen from a distance. These directional wind indicators were critical to the survival of life and crops, by pointing to the direction of an impending storm. When an arrow changed, people had time to take shelter or get crops in before damage could occur.
Today, weathervanes are considered to be classic examples of American folk art, many people display their weathervanes inside their home, especially if it is an antique. Although most weathervanes made today mirror historical examples, weathervanes that reflect hobbies, sports, or animals are common.
You can get a weathervane in just about any material, but the more common and durable ones are made from copper or brass, which turn a desirable greenish patina with age.