Headdress ornament with heads flanked by crested crocodiles

CULTURE:
Calima
DATE:
100–700 CE
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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: 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. Worn together, as many pieces undoubtedly were, they would have created a dazzling golden image. Typical Yotoco gold pieces include a large chest pectoral (1976.W.318), 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 an elaborate headdress ornament such as this example. In this case, the dangling pendant elements would have responded to the wearer’s movements, reflecting light and producing gentle metallic sounds.

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 headdress ornament 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).