Pendant: mythological creature

CULTURE:
Zenú (Sinú)
DATE:
600–1200 CE
more object details

General Description

The pre-Hispanic goldwork of Colombia is traditionally classified by archaeological zones, or regions, each with stylistic associations, varying in iconography and technology: Zenú (Sinú) and Tairona in northwestern Colombia; Muisca in the central highlands southeast of Bogotá; 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. Sixteenth-century records and recent research indicate that Sinú gold objects derived from the Gran Zenú region, thus attributed to the Zenú people who occupied the region during the 16th century conquest and whose descendants occupy the east of the lower Sinú River today.

Zenú (Sinú) ornaments often feature delicate spirals, intricate line-work, and braided elements in cast filigree, as seen in this example. Made to be suspended around the neck, the image on this gold pendant is flattened and bilaterally symmetrical for maximum decorative effect. Although not visible from the front, the suspension loop is located on the reverse at the base of the figure's head—craftsmen thus cleverly adapted the natural forms of totemic creatures to the functional demands of this jewelry. This pendant likely represents a winged mythological creature, possibly part bard, part fish.

Though their exact meaning is unknown, pendants were likely worn on ceremonial occasions, and similar pendants were still being worn at the beginning of the sixteenth century conquest. For many peoples of the ancient Americas, various animals were likely considered mythic figures. Animal pendants may have thus offered protection to the wearer, and when represented in gold, such as this example, they are even more powerful. When worn together, as many of these personal gold ornaments undoubtedly were, they would have created a dazzling golden image.

Drawn 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.

  • Carol Robbins, Label text [1976.W.298; 1976.W.297; 1976.W.292], A. H. Meadows Galleries.

  • "Nose Ornament (1979.206.545)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1979.206.541,.545/. (August 2009).

  • "Eagle Pendant (1977.187.22)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1977.187.22/. (August 2009).

Fun Facts

  • This pendant 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).