Pectoral with two heads in relief

100 BCE–800 CE
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General Description

Among the societies of Central America, gold ornaments were important symbols of power and prestige that expressed authority and status in life and in death. The pre-Hispanic goldwork of Colombia is traditionally classified by archaeological zones, or regions, each with stylistic associations, varying in iconography and technology: Calima, Quimbaya, Tolima, and Nariño in the southwest; Zenú (Sinú) and Tairona in northwestern Colombia; and Muisca in the central highlands southeast of Bogotá. The Calima region encompasses the upper Calima River valley and surrounding areas of the Western Cordillera, extending east to the Cauca River. Calima goldwork, like other styles of southwestern Colombia, is characterized by the use of high-quality gold and a preference for working the metal directly by hammering.

Research in the Calima region has established several periods of occupation. Calima goldsmiths achieved their foremost accomplishments during the period called Yotoco (100-700 CE). Their richly varied works were primarily objects of personal adornment. Headdress elements, pectorals, bracelets, anklets, and nose and ear ornaments probably functioned as ceremonial regalia for elite men. Typical Yotoco gold pieces include an elaborate headdress ornament (1976.W.319), an H‑shaped nose ornament (itself a face) (1976.W.324), dish‑shaped ear ornaments (1976.W.329.A-B) which could have been attached to a cloth headdress, and a large chest pectoral such as this example. Made to be suspended around the neck, the two holes at the top suggest this pectoral would have originally been worn hanging over the chest, possibly fastened to a neckband or garment. Decorated with simple raised dots and large circular bosses around the rim, this highly polished ornament features figural designs of smaller faces, including one that wears an elaborate nose ornament and dish-shaped ear ornaments, mirroring the human figure wearing this same regalia. The dangling elements of the headdress and nose ornament would have responded to the wearer’s movements, reflecting light and producing gentle metallic sounds. When worn together with the pectoral, as many pieces undoubtedly were, they would have created a dazzling golden image.

Adapted from

  • 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.

Fun Facts

  • This pectoral was featured in the World of Ancient Gold exhibit at the New York's World's Fair, Travel and Transportation Pavilion (April 22-October 18, 1964).