The pre-Hispanic goldwork of Colombia is traditionally classified by archaeological zones, or regions, each with stylistic associations, varying in iconography and technology: Muisca in the central highlands southeast of Bogotá; Zenú (Sinú) and Tairona in northwestern Colombia; and in the southwest, Quimbaya, Calima, Tolima, and Nariño. The richly varied works were primarily objects of personal adornment. Pendants, headdress elements, pectorals, bracelets, anklets, and nose and ear ornaments probably functioned as ceremonial regalia for elite men. In contrast, however, Muisca gold objects consist primarily of votive offerings. Muisca gold objects were usually comprised of a concentrated copper-gold alloy, known as tumbaga, and created by lost-wax casting. Objects often had multiple parts, and the surface was often left unpolished. Since the Muisca region lacked a source of gold, they traded other precious materials to acquire the metal.
Muisca votive offerings (tunjos) depict a wide range of human and animal figures. The majority bear similar characteristics being flat and plaque-like in shape, and most feature human figures—whose sex is indicated, engaged in daily activities—often holding various ritual objects. Male figures are commonly depicted with weapons or coca paraphernalia. Votive offerings such as these are commonly found in lakes or buried in groups. Many gold objects and other offerings have been found in Lake Guatavita, located in the Muisca region north of the present capital of Colombia, Santa Fe de Bogotá.
Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Ceremonial mask (1976.W.321)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 33.
Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Headdress ornament with heads flanked by crested crocodiles (1976.W.319)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 34.
Carol Robbins, "Ceremonial mask (1976.W.321)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 178.
"Three Serpents (Tunjos) (1979.206.740, 1992.92.1-2)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1979.206.740,1992.92.1,2/. (August 2009).
"Female Figure (tunjo) (1979.206.1050)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1979.206.1050/. (August 2009).