Pendant: insect

CULTURE:
Quimbaya
DATE:
400–700 CE
more object details

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 Quimbaya style was first identified in 1890, when an elite burial of six individuals with 122 gold objects was found near the village of Filandia in the middle Cauca Valley. All these gold objects are now housed in the Museo de América in Madrid, known as the Treasure of the Quimbayas.

The image on this gold pendant is flattened and bilaterally symmetrical for maximum decorative effect. Although not visible from the front, a suspension loop is located on the reverse—craftsmen thus cleverly adapted the natural forms of totemic creatures to the functional demands of this jewelry. Decorated with delicate spirals that emanate from the top and bottom and ribbed bands over the entire body, this ornament represents an insect, possibly a snail. Pendants were likely worn on ceremonial occasions, and similar pendants were still being worn at the beginning of the 16th century conquest. For many peoples of the ancient Americas, animals and insects were likely mythic figures and considered intercessors. Such pendants may have offered protection to the wearer, and when represented in gold, such as this example, they would have been doubly powerful and would have created a dazzling golden image when worn.

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.

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Pendant with two frogs (1976.W.292), Pendant bell depicting a turtle (1976.W.301), Pendant depicting a batlike mask (1976.W.237)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 35.

  • "Lime Container (Poporo) (1991.419.22)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1991.419.22/. (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).