Sacred Gold

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					                    Bowers Museum
           Teacher and Student Resource Guide


  Sacred Gold: Pre-Hispanic Art of Colombia
                             Museo del Oro, Bogotá, Colombia
                                Curator – Efraín Sáchez

                                    March 31 – July 1, 2012




                                                   O05921
                                     Anthropozoomorphous breastplate
                                                18, 8 x 11 cm
                                  Tolima Region – Middle Tolima Period
                                             1 A.D. – 700 A.D.
                               Cast using the lost wax method and hammered




“Then I saw the things that had been brought for the King from the New Land of Gold... wonders of
every kind... splendorous objects for the use of man, more beautiful than any fairytale. Never had I
seen anything in all the days of my life that filled my heart with such joy as these things. Because
amongst them I saw exquisitely worked treasures of strange art, and I marvelled at the subtle genius
of those men from far-off lands. I cannot find sufficient words to describe the things I saw before my
eyes.”

                                       www.bowers.org/learn

                                                                                                    1
                     Table of Contents


1. Curriculum Connections – State of CA Content Standards

2. Topographic Map of Colombia with Goldworking Areas

3. Background Information – The Pre-Hispanic Goldwork of
   Colombia

     a.   The Golden People
     b.   Fabulous Animals
     c.   The Animal Man
     d.   Abstraction and Nature
     e.   The Universe of Forms

4. Significant Objects


5. Metallurgy

6. Goldworking Techniques


7. Glossary


8. Bibliography



                                                            2
1. CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
GRADE 7 CALIFORNIA CONTENT STANDARDS

HISTORY/SOCIAL SCIENCE
World History and Geography: Medieval and Early Modern Times
7.7 Students compare and contrast the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social
structures of the Meso-American and Andean civilizations.

   1. Study the locations, landforms, and climates of Mexico, Central America, and South
       America and their effects on Mayan, Aztec, and Incan economies, trade, and development of
       urban societies.
   2. Study the roles of people in each society, including class structures, family life, war-fare,
       religious beliefs and practices, and slavery.
   3. Explain how and where each empire arose and how the Aztec and Incan empires were
       defeated by the Spanish.
   4. Describe the artistic and oral traditions and architecture in the three civilizations.
   5. Describe the Meso-American achievements in astronomy and mathematics, including the
       development of the calendar and the Meso-American knowledge of seasonal changes to the
       civilizations' agricultural systems.



VISUAL ARTS

1.0 ARTISTIC PERCEPTION
Processing, Analyzing, and Responding to Sensory Information Through the Language and Skills
Unique to the Visual Arts

Students perceive and respond to works of art, objects in nature, events, and the environment. They
also use the vocabulary of the visual arts to express their observations.

      Develop Perceptual Skills and Visual Arts Vocabulary
      1.1 Describe the environment and selected works of art, using the elements of art and
      the principles of design.
      1.2 Identify and describe scale (proportion) as applied to two-dimensional and three-
      dimensional works of art.

      Analyze Art Elements and Principles of Design
      1.3 Identify and describe the ways in which artists convey the illusion of space (e.g.,
      placement, overlapping, relative size, atmospheric perspective, and linear perspective).
      1.4 Analyze and describe how the elements of art and the principles of design
      contribute to the expressive qualities of their own works of art.



2.0 CREATIVE EXPRESSION
Creating, Performing, and Participating in the Visual Arts
Students apply artistic processes and skills, using a variety of media to communicate meaning and
intent in original works of art.

      Skills, Processes, Materials, and Tools
      2.1 Develop increasing skill in the use of at least three different media.
      2.2 Use different forms of perspective to show the illusion of depth on a two-
      dimensional surface.
      2.3 Develop skill in using mixed media while guided by a selected principle of design.
      2.4 Develop skill in mixing paints and showing color relationships.

      Communication and Expression Through Original Works of Art
      2.5 Interpret reality and fantasy in original two-dimensional and three-dimensional
      works of art.
      2.6 Create an original work of art, using film, photography, computer graphics, or
      video.
      2.7 Create a series of works of art that express a personal statement demonstrating skill
      in applying the elements of art and the principles of design.

3.0 HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL CONTEXT
Understanding the Historical Contributions and Cultural Dimensions of the Visual Arts

Students analyze the role and development of the visual arts in past and present cultures throughout
the world, noting human diversity as it relates to the visual arts and artists.

      Role and Development of the Visual Arts
      3.1 Research and describe how art reflects cultural values in various traditions
      throughout the world.

      Diversity of the Visual Arts
      3.2 Compare and contrast works of art from various periods, styles, and cultures and
      explain how those works reflect the society in which they were made.

4.0 AESTHETIC VALUING
Responding to, Analyzing, and Making Judgments About Works in the Visual Arts

Students analyze, assess, and derive meaning from works of art, including their own, according to
the elements of art, the principles of design, and aesthetic qualities.

      Derive Meaning
      4.1 Explain the intent of a personal work of art and draw possible parallels between it
      and the work of a recognized artist.
      4.2 Analyze the form (how a work of art looks) and content (what a work of art
      communicates) of works of art.

      Make Informed Judgments
      4.3 Take an active part in a small-group discussion about the artistic value of specific
      works of art, with a wide range of the viewpoints of peers being considered.
      4.4 Develop and apply specific and appropriate criteria individually or in groups to
      assess and critique works of art.
      4.5 Identify what was done when a personal work of art was reworked and explain how
      those changes improved the work.
5.0 CONNECTIONS, RELATIONSHIPS, APPLICATIONS
Connecting and Applying What Is Learned in the Visual Arts to Other Art Forms and Subject Areas
and to Careers

Students apply what they learn in the visual arts across subject areas. They develop competencies
and creative skills in problem solving, communication, and management of time and resources that
contribute to lifelong learning and career skills. They also learn about careers in and related to the
visual arts.

      Connections and Applications
      5.1 Study the music and art of a selected historical era and create a multimedia
      presentation that reflects that time and culture.
      5.2 Use various drawing skills and techniques to depict lifestyles and scenes from
      selected civilizations.

      Visual Literacy
      5.3 Examine art, photography, and other two and three-dimensional images, comparing
      how different visual representations of the same object lead to different interpretations
      of its meaning, and describe or illustrate the results.

      Careers and Career-Related Skills
      5.4 Identify professions in or related to the visual arts and some of the specific skills
      needed for those professions.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ADDITIONAL SUBJECTS: Science; Mathematics; English-Language Arts
              2. Topographic Map of Colombia with Goldworking Areas 1




Colombia is bordered on the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by
Panama and the Caribbean Sea; and to the west by Ecuador and the Pacific Ocean. Including its Caribbean
islands, it lies between latitudes 14°N and 5°S, and longitudes 66° and 82°W.

Located on the “Ring of Fire,” this region of the world is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Colombia is dominated by the Andes mountains, which contain the majority of the country's urban centers.
Beyond the Colombian Massif, mountains are divided into three branches known as cordilleras (mountain
ranges): the Cordillera Occidental, on the west, running adjacent to the Pacific coast and including the city of
Cali; the Cordillera Central, running between the Cauca and Magdalena river valleys, to the west and east
respectively, and including the cities of Medellín, Manizales, Pereira and Armenia; and the Cordillera
Oriental, in the east, extending north east to the Guajira Peninsula and including Bogotá, Bucaramanga and
Cúcuta. Peaks in the Cordillera Occidental exceed 13,000 ft, and in the Cordillera Central and Cordillera
Oriental they reach 8,000 ft. At 8,500 ft. Bogotá is the highest city of its size in the world.




1
    From Gold of El Dorado exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, Harry N. Abrams, New York: 1979.
                                       3. Background Information
                                  THE PRE-HISPANIC GOLDWORK OF COLOMBIA2

INTRODUCTION - The first evidence of American metallurgy is dated to around 3,500 years ago
on Peru’s central range. This tradition gradually was adopted by other developed cultures in
northern Peru and Ecuador, then from there, diffused into southern Colombia’s Pacific coast. By
the 5th century BC, metalsmiths from Tumaco - the La Tolita culture, had mastered the techniques
of assembling gold sheets, welding miniatures and working with platinum.

Pre-hispanic3 Colombian gold work, outstanding in its technical and stylistic variety, shows the
cultural diversity of the groups that created it. The country of Colombia, located in the northwest
corner of South American, was a major route for immigrants of different cultural origins. Groups,
as they settled, adjusted to the geographic and climatic diversities they encountered. Some groups
settled in the mountainous Andean areas where cool-weather plateaus and bleak páramos4 alternate
with warm, lush valleys confined by the Cordilleras. Others populated the vast jungles and tropical
prairies in the east, on the Pacific coast, and on the plains adjacent to the Atlantic shores.

By 500 BC, these different cultures had developed complex societies that included highly
sophisticated and complex metalwork. Gold work especially flourished among communities with
well-developed, sociopolitical organizations that had social hierarchies and centralized political
power.

Each groups held its own specific beliefs about the meaning of gold, their own way of working with
the metal, along with specialized forms, designs and symbolism in their pieces. Two great
metallurgical traditions are readily distinguishable in Colombia – that of the southwest, and from
the center northward.




Map cited from http://www.precolumbiangold.com/colombia.htm




2
  Adapted from the 1992 docent materials for the Museo del Oro Exhibit, by Clemencia Plaxas, Ph.D, Director, Ana
María Falchetti, Ph.D., Assistant Director, and includes those cultures relevant to this exhibition.
3
   Pre-hispanic refers to the prior to Spanish conquests in the western hemisphere. Pre-Columbian refers to the time
before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
4
  Found in the northern Andes of South America and adjacent southern Central America, the páramo is a harsh
ecosystem of regions above tree line. yet below the permanent snowline.
    a. The Golden People
The Spanish conquistadors originally gave the name "El Dorado" to the central figure in a ritual that was
performed by the inhabitants of Colombia's highlands. Covered with "gold dust and ground gold", he threw
gold objects and emeralds from a raft into the waters of a lake, as offerings to their deities. The "Golden
Indian" of the lakes ritual recalls another one, this time on dry land, where a number of Indians were seen to
be "dressed in gold armor from head to foot". The "golden people" were depicted in countless forms by
Colombia's pre-Hispanic metalsmiths. On masks, breastplates, nose rings, pendants, pins and lime containers,
or as votive figures for throwing into lakes, images appear of men and women who perhaps reminded the
Indians of how mankind was created.

                                         O06513
                                         Anthropomorphous pendant
                                         4, 7 x 8 cm
                                         Zenú Region – Early Zenú Period
                                         200 B.C. – 1000 A.D.
                                         Cast using the lost wax method

                                             Pendants like these, in the form of a human head, with realistic
                                             faces adorned with earrings and complicated headdresses, were
                                             cast using the lost wax method in tumbaga with a high gold
                                             content.

         b. Between "The Golden People" and "Fabulous Animals"
Using gold, copper, tumbaga and alloys of these, plus a variety of techniques for exploring and exploiting the
limits of these metals' plasticity, ductility and malleability, pre-Hispanic metalsmiths constructed a highly
diverse visual universe with multiple forms. Their principal 'subjects' were the human figure, animals,
geometric shapes, and a combination of all these. Plant life and forms are curiously scarce. The plastic
interpretation of "golden people", "fabulous animals" and geometric shapes varies from one geographical
area to another and from one time period to another. This is what enables us to talk of styles in pre-Hispanic
goldwork, styles which bear testimony to the vitality and diversity of their respective cultures.

                                             Bird-shaped breastplate
                                             15, 1 x 16, 2 cm
                                             Nariño Region – Late Nariño Period
                                             600 A.D. – 1700 A.D.
                                             Hammered

                                             Skilled in the art of schematization, Nariño metalsmiths
                                             summed up the flight of the frigate bird, including its forked
                                             tail, in this pendant. The stepped shapes evoke the plumage on
                                             the wings.



                                                 Snail-shaped votive figure
                                                 7,8 x 3,1 cm
                                                 Muisca Region – Muisca Period
                                                 600 A.D. – 1600 A.D.
                                                 Cast using the lost wax method

                                                 For some indigenous societies, snakes represent the children
                                                 of the Mother, and are the fruit of the waters. Frogs, snakes,
                                                 lizards and snails were perhaps the animals hat were
                                                 depicted in the most "realistic" manner of all. In
                                                 the case of the latter, often the real shell was simply
                                                 wrapped in a sheet of gold.
Lizard-shaped pendant
5,5 x 2,4 cm
Quimbaya Region – Early Quimbaya Period
500 B.C. – 700 A.D.
Cast using the lost wax method

Sea- and land-snails and lizards were commonly depicted in the
typical goldwork of pre-Hispanic peoples living along the mid-
Cauca valley during the early and late occupation periods

 c. - FABULOUS ANIMALS
The tremendous variety of wildlife found in Colombia, a country with great diversity in terms of climate and
natural environments, proved to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the pre-Hispanic metalsmith.
Countless species of snake, frog, bat, bird, deer, jaguar, lizard and snail make up the golden wildlife. Each of
the animals depicted no doubt had powerful symbolic associations for pre-Hispanic man. But the metalsmith
was not insensitive to the richness of their shapes, textures, rhythms and colors. He created his own fantastic
zoo, where the real and the marvelous worlds merged.

                                      Bird-shaped pendant
                                      4,2 x 3,6 cm
                                      Zenú Region – Early Zenú Period
                                      200 B.C. – 1000 A.D.
                                      Cast using the lost wax method

                                      Breastplates and pendants in the form of a bird with spread wings and
                                      tail were common features of the iconography of peoples from Central
                                      America, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the Caribbean Plains, and
                                      the Eastern Cordillera.




Snake-shaped votive figure
6,5 x 1,1 cm
Muisca Region – Muisca Period
600 A.D. – 1600 A.D.
Cast using the lost wax method

In Muisca mythology, the Mother Bachué and her husband emerged from the sacred lake. They travelled the
land planting people. When they were old, they returned to the lake, transformed into two snakes.

d. – THE ANIMAL-MAN
Figures which combine human and animal features are found frequently in pre-hispanic goldwork.
There are jaguar-men, men with apes' tails, fish-men, and above all, bird-men where the human's
legs become the tail and his arms the wings. Ethnographers have seen in these figures the different
transformations of the shaman, or religious leader, who possessed supernatural powers for
explaining and organizing the cosmos. Amongst today's Indians, the shaman penetrates the different
dimensions of the universe in his hallucinations, and in his ecstatic flight can see everything and
decipher everything. The objects we see before us are like sphinxes, full of secrets. But above all,
they are proof of the outstanding ability of their creators to combine shapes in a balanced whole that
is wonderfully suggestive in the eyes of the beholder.
                                   Anthropo-zoomorphous breastplate
                                   28,5 x 15 cm
                                   Tolima Region – Middle Tolima Period
                                   1 A.D. – 700 A.D.
                                   Cast using the lost wax method and hammered

                                   Archaeologists have interpreted this figure as that of a being with
                                   schematized human head and body, and a raised jaguar tail, seen from both
                                   sides. In formal terms, it is a happy compromise between organic and
                                   geometric




                                        Anthropo-zoomorphous pendant
                                        5 x 6,5 cm
                                        Tolima Region – Middle Tolima Period
                                        1 A.D. – 700 A.D.
                                        Cast using the lost wax method and hammered

                                        In the ritual sense, the combination of human and animal forms has
                                        been explained as depicting different transformations of the shaman,
                                        or religious guide. The plastic result is a coherent composition of
                                        disparate elements.



e. - ABSTRACTION AND NATURE
There is no contradiction in the pre-hispanic goldwork of Colombia between depicting "abstract" and
depicting "naturalistic". Each object is a combination of forms which always conjure up what the senses
detect, and always the ideal, that which becomes real only in the work of art. Even the 35
most "abstract" objects have direct references to sensorial experiences. But at the same time, all figures, even
the most "realistic" ones, are to some extent independent of the real world, something that is achieved by
means of schematizations, distortions, and imaginary combinations. The result is a coherent, balanced
synthesis of form and content where everything can be abstract, yet at the same time everything can be
figurative.



                                            Butterfly-shaped nose ring
                                            6,7 x 8 cm
                                            Tairona Region – Tairona Period
                                            900 A.D. – 1600 A.D.
                                            Cast using the lost wax method

                                            These cast filigree nose rings remind us of the butterflies
                                            that lived in the valleys and on the mountains of the Sierra
                                            Nevada de Santa Marta. However, we do not know what the
                                            craftsman who made them saw in them.
                                 Half-moon shaped tweezers
                                 7,1 x 5 cm
                                 Tolima Region – Middle Tolima Period
                                 1 A.D. – 700 A.D.
                                 Hammered


                                 The simplest and most essential forms constructed his universe of images
                                 were the basis on which the pre-hispanic metalsmith




f. - THE UNIVERSE OF FORMS
The pre-Hispanic metalsmith constructed an immensely-rich visual universe from elements that have been
ever-present in artistic expression: the straight line, the circle, the square, the triangle, the spiral, and
combinations, deformations, reinterpretations and projections of these in space. A universe which integrates
natural and supernatural, sacred and profane, man and animal, body and soul, abstract and figurative, nature
and culture, gold and copper. A universe that was as aesthetically valid for unknown people in the remote
past as it is for mankind in general.


                                             O33121
                                            Heart-shaped breastplate
                                            13,6 x 17,9 cm
                                            Zenú Region –Zenú Tradition
                                            200 B.C. – 1600 A.D.
                                            Cast using the lost wax method and hammered

                                            Funerary ornaments made from sacred metal that did not alter
                                            with time immortalized the leaders and their symbolic power so
                                            that they could go on taking part in the life of their community.




Then I saw the things that had been brought for the King from the New Land of Gold... wonders of every
kind... splendorous objects for the use of man, more beautiful than any fairytale. Never had I seen anything
in all the days of my life that filled my heart with such joy as these things. Because amongst them I saw
exquisitely worked treasures of strange art, and I marveled at the subtle genius of those men from far-off
lands. I cannot find sufficient words to describe the things I saw before my eyes.
                                                                                     Albrecht Dűrer, 1520
4. Sacred Gold: Pre-Hispanic Art in Colombia
             Significant Objects
                              Twin-spouted jug
                                    C00382
                    Bird-shaped twin-spouted vessel
                    19.1 x 17.8 cm
                    Calima-Malagana Region – Yotoco Period
                    200 B.C. – 1300 A.D.

                    These societies used pottery as a way of
                    expressing in material form the world around
                    them - that is, the main aspects of their daily
                    lives. A wide range of human and animal
                    forms and scenes from everyday life were
                    represented on aesthetically high-quality
                    pottery vessels as seen in this twin-spouted
                    vessel in a form of a bird.

                                Twin-spouted jug
                                    C00389
                    C00389
                    Anthropomorphous twin-spouted vessel
                    21 x 14,7 cm
                    Calima-Malagana Region – Ilama Period
                    1600 B.C. – 100 A.D.
                    These vessels are known to have been placed
                    in tombs as part of funerary regalia, and the
                    person shown on each vessel could possibly
                    be the deceased himself. Female figures, like
                    this, have a robust build and likewise have
                    body ornaments, hairstyles and necklaces.
                                   Funerary Urn
                                     C00786
                    Funerary urn
                    93,5 x 36,3 cm
                    Region Tolima – Late Tolima Period 900
                    A.D. – 1600 A.D.
                    All along the River Magdalena, it is common
                    to find funerary urns with representations of
                    the human figure, either on the lid or on the
                    main body of the vessel. The human figure
                    that adorns the lid of this funerary urn
                    possibly depicted the deceased who was
                    inside it. Sometimes the urn contained shell
                    objects and vessels that had been made
                    especially for the burial, indicating that gold
                    was not the only symbol of power and
                    hierarchy.
            Twin-spouted jug
                C00899
Phytomorphous twin-spouted vessel
18 x 12 cm
Calima-Malagana Region – Yotoco Period
200 B.C. – 1300 A.D.

The Classic Period in Calima corresponds to
Yotoco pottery, its characteristic decoration in
black negative resist paint on red, orange or
white wash, and curvilinear designs. They
occasionally carry appliqués.



                   Figure
                   C03099
Anthropomorphous figure
21,4 x 12,7 cm
Nariño Region – Late Nariño Period
600 A.D. – 1700 A.D.
The Pastos (inhabitants from Nariño) were
skilful weavers who introduced various
techniques for spinning cotton and other
vegetable fibers. From clay they made
amphoras, bowls and goblets, which were
decorated using the positive painting
technique. This enabled them to illustrate
features of their surroundings and aspects of
their daily life, such as dance, war, hunting,
fishing and ritual, with great realism.
                    Bowl
                   C13098
C13098
Semi-globular bowl with anthropomorphous
figures
6,5 x 15,8 cm
Calima-Malagana Region – Malagana Period
100 B.C. – 400 A.D.
In 1992, a chieftains' cemetery dating back to
the year 200 A.D. on the plains of Valle del
Cauca province was destroyed and
looted.Archaeological digs nearby revealed
information about life in those days, but
everything to do with the circumstances in
which this important cemetery developed and
about the people who were buried in it was
lost forever. Therefore this bowl is one of the
few testimonies that can depict a recipient
used for daily life activities.
                    Vessel
                    C13109
C13109
Anthropomorphous vessel
9,7 x 13,5 cm
Zenú Region – Early Zenú Period
200 B.C. – 1000 A.D.
The hot, floodable Caribbean plains were
inhabited 6,000 years ago by groups of
gatherers who made the first pottery in
America. Women were linked to ideas of
fertility, wisdom and respect. Countless clay
women were deposited in burial mounds with
the deceased, possibly as a symbol of the
human and agricultural fertility that was
needed if the population was to reproduce.
Their presence would lead to germination,
rebirth, and the transformation of the deceased
in the underworld, in the same way that seeds
are planted and protected so they can
germinate and grow.
              Lime Container
                 002995
Phytomorphous lime container
16,7 x 8,6 cm
Quimbaya Region – Early Quimbaya Period
500 B.C. – 700 A.D.
Cast using the lost wax method with core

The goldwork of the Early Period (500 B.C.
to 600 A.D.) consists of iconic figures of
leaders, both men and women, as symbols of
identity. The poporos in which the lime was
kept that was used with coca leaves were
symbols of fertility because of their color and
shine, and the fact that they were shaped like
women, marrows, pumpkins and gourds.
Leaders used them in ceremonies where they
sought reproduction in nature and the
wellbeing of society, where they themselves
appeared essential to ensuring that life would
go on.
                Breastplate
                  005833
Anthropo-zoomorphous breastplate
28,5 x 15 cm
Tolima Region – Middle Tolima Period
1 A.D. – 700 A.D.
Cast using the lost wax method and
hammered
Archaeologists have interpreted this figure as
that of a being with schematized human head
and body, and a raised jaguar tail, seen from
both sides. In formal terms, it is a happy
compromise between organic and geometric.
      Semicircular filigree earrings
                O30520, O30521
Semicircular filigree earrings
4,1 x 5,6 cm; 4,1 x 5,6 cm
Zenú Region – Zenú Tradition
200 B.C. – 1600 A.D.
Cast using the lost wax method.
The distinctive manufacturing and
ornamentation technique that was used in
goldwork from the Caribbean plains was false
filigree, where gold expressed a true metal
weave, especially on earrings. The filigree
resembles a web that was related to all aspects
of their culture. For them, the world appears
to have been an enormous web, on which
living beings lay.

            Earring Pendant
                 005841
Bat-shaped ear pendants
8,4 x 14,4 cm; 8,6 x 14,5 cm
Tolima Region – Middle Tolima Period
1 A.D. – 700 A.D.
Other pendants and breastplates portray
winged human figures with the tails and ears
of feline figures and bats: they are fantastic
beings in a continuous stream of
transformations. Man evokes the power of the
bat when he is transformed into one. He
acquires the bat's knowledge and habits, in
order to make the secrets of life and death
clear.
                 Breastplate
                   005921
Anthropo-zoomorphous breastplate
18,8 x 11 cm
Tolima Region – Middle Tolima Period
1 A.D. – 700 A.D.
Cast using the lost wax method and
hammered.
Other pendants and breastplates portray
winged human figures with the tails and ears
of feline figures: they are fantastic beings in a
continuous stream of transformations.
                   Pendant
                    006053
O06053
Fish-shaped pendant
10 x 4,7 cm
Zenú Region – Early Zenú Period
200 B.C. – 1000 A.D.
Cast using the lost wax method with core

Inspired by the animals in his geographical
environment, the metalsmith created his own
fantastic wildlife, expressing it using his own
laws and language. Crustaceans were
important for many different pre-Hispanic
peoples. The numerous water birds, alligators,
fish, feline creatures and deer were not only
sources of food, they were also essential
elements of these societies' symbolic thought.
                   Pendant
                    006054
Fish-shaped pendant
7,1 x 5,1 cm
Zenú Region – Early Zenú Period
200 B.C. – 1000 A.D.
Cast using the lost wax method

Only by looking closely at this object can the
figure and wings be discovered of a fish
adorned with numerous spirals.
                   Pendant
                    006513
Anthropomorphous pendant
4,7 x 8 cm
Zenú Region – Early Zenú Period
200 B.C. – 1000 A.D.
Cast using the lost wax method
Pendants like these, in the form of a human
head, with realistic faces adorned with
earrings and complicated headdresses, were
cast using the lost wax method in tumbaga
with a high gold content.



                 Breastplate
                   006668
O06668
Circular breastplate
27,7 cm
Calima-Malagana Region – Yotoco Period
200 B.C. – 1300 A.D.
Hammered and embossed
In the years between 200 B.C. and 1200 A.D.,
the Yotoco societies living in the Calima and
Cauca valleys altered the way they expressed
their world in material form. Emphasis during
this period was placed on making exquisite
gold objects, mainly for funerary purposes,
and this became one of the principal ways
they expressed their social relationships, their
ideology, and social differences.
                    Spoon
                    016306
O16306
Spoon
22,4 x 4,4 cm
Calima-Malagana Region – Yotoco Period
200 B.C. – 1300 A.D.
Hammered
Spoon for ceremonial use. The geometric and
zoomorphous decoration on the handle was
achieved using cutting and fretwork
techniques
                   Pendant
                    016584
Anthropo-zoomorphous pendant
9,5 x 11,90 cm
Tairona Region – Tairona Period
900 A.D. – 1600 A.D.
Cast using the lost wax method

Society's destiny was determined during the
Tairona period by a powerful shaman elite,
who claimed to control the essential forces of
nature, the order of the cosmos, and human
actions.They were responsible for overseeing
the material and spiritual wellbeing of the
community, and this gave them a political and
ideological power that was capable of moving
armies, ordering major public works to be
undertaken, controlling agricultural
production, barter networks and trade, and
holding mass ceremonies.
                 Breastplate
                   017177
Bird-shaped breastplate
15,1 x 16,2 cm
Nariño Region – Late Nariño Period
600 A.D. – 1700 A.D. Hammered
Skilled in the art of schematisation, Nariño
metalsmiths summed up the flight of the
frigate bird, including its forked tail, in this
pendant. The stepped shapes evoke the
plumage on the wings.
               Bead Necklace
                  020294
Necklace with claw-shaped beads
1,6 x 2,6 cm
Tairona Region – Tairona Period
900 A.D. – 1600 A.D.
Cast using the lost wax method
Necklaces always played a role in pre-
Hispanic societies, not only as a decoration
item, but also as a symbol of status and
power.
                 Breastplate
                   033140
Composite breastplate
14 x 21,8 cm
Quimbaya Region – Late Quimbaya Period
700 A.D. – 1600 A.D.
Hammered
In the Quimbaya society major changes
occurred in the Late Period (800 to 1600
A.D.), when there was great cultural diversity
and an increase in the population. The body
was painted, bead ligatures were tied to the
limbs, and ornaments were inserted in the
nose and under the mouth. Goldwork, in
which much copper was used, and pottery
became geometric and schematic.

              Lime Container
                 033160
Phytomorphous lime container
24,5 x 7,2 cm
Quimbaya Region – Late Quimbaya Period
700 A.D. – 1600 A.D.
Cast using the lost wax method with core

Goldwork ornaments during the Late
Quimbaya period often had simple geometric
shapes and schematic decoration. Numerous
objects have been preserved, and today these
give us an idea of the daily lives of those
communities.
                   Pendant
                    033264
Bird-shaped pendant
11,4 x 3,4 cm
Urabá
300 A.D. – 1600 A.D.
Cast using the lost wax method
Pendants shaped like birds, felines, frogs and
quadrupeds with bird heads, amongst others,
reproduced mythical fauna and the
surroundings
The stylized representation of a shoveler duck
can be seen in this magnificent object. But
what is truly notable about it is the
extraordinary strength and rhythm of its
shapes, achieved with so few elements.
                                             5. Metallurgy        5




                                                             Using stories from those returning from
                                                             Colombia, Theodor de Bry depicted South
                                                             American Indians mining gold. European
                                                             explorers have never found these mines.



                                                             Metallurgy is one of mankind's greatest
                                                             achievements. From the time it first began,
                                                             about 9,000 years ago in the Near East,
                                                             metalwork has transformed societies and
                                                             community life dramatically. When man
                                                             discovered the malleability, hardness and
                                                             resistance of copper, of iron, and of alloys of
                                                             these, he found he could use these metals for
                                                             making tools, weapons and utensils.

                                                        He marveled at the beautiful color and the
                                                        shine of gold and silver, and the unchanging
eternity of golden metal. Here was material to create symbolic artwork with which to honor gods of
his culture and adorn the leaders who governed him.

Metallurgy evolved at different times in various parts of the world: Anatolia (Turkey), China, the
Great Lakes region in North America, and in the Central Andes. Some of these developments, such
as those in South America, diffused over wide areas.

Goldwork reached Colombia from the south around 2,500 years ago. The ancient goldsmiths in this
region had already had traditions of experimenting with gold, copper and alloys. They went on to
invent and perfect techniques like casting, using the lost wax method, and welding by granulation.
They even discovered how to work platinum, a metal that Europe was not able to use until the 18th
century, due to its high fusion temperatures.

METALLURGY AND SOCIETY
Metallurgy is closely interwoven with a group’s world view, politics, economics and social
organization. When the Colombian goldworkers chose materials, manufacturing techniques and
organized production, they did so influenced by cultural and social factors.

MINING AND SMELTING
Miners were respected specialists, held in high esteem because they knew the secrets of the earth
and how to extract metals from it. Goldsmiths held a dual status, since they combined technical and
supernatural knowledge in their work. Many of them were religious and political leaders.

Mountainous areas of Colombia are the richest in gold, while platinum exists in alluvial deposits
found in the regions of Chocó, Cauca and Nariño. Copper was obtained from minerals like


5
    From the Museo de Oro website, http://www.banrep.gov.co/museo/eng/home.htm
malachite, azurite or pyrite, found frequently in the geological strata of the cordilleras. Native
copper can be found on the Serranía de Perijá, in Antioquia, and in the southern part of the country.

The instruments of ancient miners included stone axes, hammers and wooden bars with fire-
hardened tips used for removing gravel and stones from the rivers and to dig into the veins of gold.
The most common form of mining was panning in alluvial deposits. The gold-bearing sands of
shallow streams were washed in wooden or pottery pans, using a circular movement. The small
grains of gold and platinum, which were heavier, sank to the bottom.

In nature, many metals can be found in a native state, ready to be worked. In the case of copper, it
is frequently found in combination with other mineral and oxide deposits. It must, therefore, be
melted using furnaces, devoid of oxygen in order to extract the metal. This process is called
“smelting.”

In its natural state, gold sometimes contains impurities in the form of silver and other minerals. This
is called argentiferous gold. 6 These can affect both color, and the physical and chemical properties
of gold. It too often requires smelting.

Smelting furnaces were built on the tops of mountains, where air currents kept the fire going. Small,
portable clay furnaces were used, as well. The coals were heated to high temperatures using bamboo
reeds which had pottery tips fitted at the end. Blowpipes with faces on them have been found,
demonstrating the symbolic importance of transforming ore into metal.

The metal was smelted in clay crucibles with coal and flux, which removed impurities. What
remained were gold ingots, ready to be worked. Metals were also mixed together in crucibles to
create alloys such as tumbaga, a combination of argentiferous gold and copper.




6
    Argentiferous pertains to that which bears or produces silver.
                                     6. Goldworking Techniques                   7



Goldworking involves the art of shaping objects out of a precious metal. Ancient goldsmiths
developed their skills and knowledge of the physical and chemical characteristics of the metal in
the wide variety of ways.

                                                                THE HAMMER AND FIRE
                                                        Metallurgy in the Peruvian Andes was noted for
                                                        an emphasis on producing hammered objects.
                                                        This technological preference appears to have
                                                        been a cultural choice. It did not depend on the
                                                        properties of the metals for they knew about
                                                        melting, which they had practiced even before
                                                        they took up hammering. This Andean metal-
                                                        working tradition spread throughout the territory
                                                        now known as Colombia, particularly in its
                                                        southwest region.


In order to make sheets, goldsmiths hammered gold ingots on stone slabs or anvils. They used
hammers of different shapes, materials, sizes and weights, depending on the alloy, the size of the
object or the phase of the work. The metal became brittle and tends to fracture when it was
hammered, so the goldsmiths had to heat it until it was red hot, then cooled it by submerging it in
water. This process, called “annealing,” a procedure that could be repeated many times until a
desired thickness was attained.

Then stone polishers and slabs were used to smooth the sheets, to obtain a uniform surface. Stone
or hammer-hardened tumbaga chisels were employed for delineating and outlining of the piece,
finally cutting it to its final shape.

The highly malleable nature of gold meant that flexible sheets could be manufactured for making
objects of varying shapes, sizes and caliber. Nose rings, earrings, containers and diadems were
made from copper and silver alloys.

Ornaments and utensils, made of hammered copper, were generally heavier and thicker that those of
gold or silver. Ornaments of hammered tumbaga, a copper and gold alloy, tends to have thin walls
and high-polished surfaces.

                                                   EMBOSSING AND OPENWORK
                              The craftsman sketched the decorative designs on the back of the sheet
                              with an engraving chisel. Then, using punches, embossing tools and
                              ordinary chisels, he pressed and highlighted the design motif on both
                              surfaces. This was done while resting the object against a soft material or
                              against shapes carved from clay, wood or bone.

Designs with spaces or openwork were obtained by cutting sheets with the aid of metal and stone
chisels.


7
    From the Museo de Oro website, http://www.banrep.gov.co/museo/eng/home.htm
                                                               FROM WAX TO METAL:
                                                               THE LOST WAX METHOD

                                                       One notable feature of pre-hispanic
                                                       Colombian goldwork is the predominant role
                                                       played by casting using the lost wax method.
                                                       Goldsmiths were masters at shaping
                                                       ornaments and containers in wax with their
                                                       hands, then transforming them into metal.
                                                       The wax was obtained from beehives that
                                                       housed non-stinging bees, called “little angel


bees.” Various species of these insects were found in Colombia, at heights ranging from sea level
up to 11,000 feet, particularly in the rainforests. By forming a shape in beeswax, then using a mold
to transfer that shape into metal, goldsmiths created a wide range of objects – realistic or abstract
representations, fine metallic weaves or heavy ornaments.

The fingerprints found on some metal pendants led Europeans to think that the indigenous
craftsmen had molded and modeled gold directly with their hands. The fingerprints, however
actually were left in the wax model that were used in casting.

Gold melts at 1,945ºF, and copper at 1,981º F. When they are melted together, their properties
change and the fusion point fall to 1,562 º F. The alloy of this metal is called tumbaga or guanine a
word used by the Taino people later

1. The desired figure was modeled in wax. A coil of the same material was added to the
   model. When the wax melted, it would leave pipes through which the metal could flow.
2. The wax model was coated with layers of clay to form the mold. When the mold was dry and
   hard, it was heated until the wax melted, then it could be removed.
3. Liquid metal was poured into the mold, taking on the intended shape.
4. When the mold was cool, it was broken to remove the metal object.
5. The pipes and funnel were cut and the object polished.
                       Sacred Gold: Pre-Hispanic Art of Colombia

                                              Glossary

 Alloys of gold: Gold objects can be made stronger when the gold is combined with other metals,
like copper. Gold was melted in clay crucibles placed together with charcoal inside a kiln, also
made of earthenware. The temperature required to melt the metal was reached by blowing on the
charcoal with wicker fans or pottery blowpipes. Colors varied depending on the metals combined
together.

 Annealing: A process for changing the properties of metal by heating it to a suitable temperature,
then cooling it. It is used to soften metal to make it easier to shape or stamp/emboss. It is only used
for alloys, not solid gold. Copper, steel, silver and brass are generally heated until glowing for a
while, and then allowed to cool. Metals with iron must be cooled slowly to anneal, but copper,
silver and brass can either cool quickly by being quenched in water, or cooled slowly.

 Casting: Pouring liquid gold into a mold. Sometimes a matrix was carved in a soft stone that was
then pressed into clay to form a mold. When the clay was dry, the inside of the mold was lined with
a layer of beeswax and stamped with the stone again. The result was a wax mold, imprinted on both
sides, which, made in quantity, could be used for casting as many pieces as were required. The
method was used particularly for making necklace beads. Other molds were made with the lost wax
technique.

 Coqueros: Ceramic objects depicting chewers of coca. Typically a wad of coca leaf was placed in
the mouth. A lime dipper was used to collect small quantities of lime from the poporo, then placed
in the mouth. The lime served to extract the neuroactivating alkaloids from the coca leaves,
producing the stimulating effects of a narcotic drug.

 Crucible: Vessels in which metals are melted. They were made of clay that could survive the high
temperatures required for smelting.

Embossing: A technique by which decorative designs are outlined on sheets of gold. The sheets
were placed on a soft surface and pressed with metal chisels to press in, or emboss, the outline.

 False Filigree: A style of decoration on metal that imitates filigree. It is made mainly by soldering
ornamental wire to a punch and then hammering it into a sheet of metal from the back, or by casting
apiece from a model that was already decorated with true filigree, or by die stamping.

Filigree: A delicate kind of metalwork made with twisted threads, usually of gold and silver.



Flux: A chemical used in metallurgy as a cleaning or purifying agent. They are used in both
smelting and fusion welding. Some of the earliest known fluxes were carbonate of soda, potash,
charcoal, borax, lime and iron ore.

 Fusion Welding: A method of joining together gold sheets, granules and wires so intricate items
can be formed. Copper was dissolved in vinegar to create a flux, acetate. This liquid was dropped
on the spot to be joined, or fused. When the spot was heated over a gentle flame in an oxygen-free
atmosphere, the acetate burned away and the dissolved copper formed an alloy with the gold,
creating a strong bond that was barely discernible. The process requires strict control of very high
temperatures, but lower than the melting point of gold. The slightest error could ruin the piece.

 Gilded by Oxidation: A way of polishing objects made of gold alloys. An object was heated, the
copper then oxidized, or combined with the oxygen in the air, producing a surface film of copper
oxide. The copper oxide was then cleaned away with an acid solution obtained from plants of the
oxalis family. The surface was covered with a coating of gold this way, and the coating became
thicker the more often the piece was oxidized.

 Gold Foil: Gold that is beaten into very thin sheets of gold that can be pressed onto surfaces to
cover them with gold.

Gold Sheets: Made by hammering gold on a cylindrical gold anvil.

 Lost Wax Technique: A method of creating objects from molten gold. A model was first made of
beeswax, then it was covered with clay to make a mold around it. Once the clay mold was heated,
the wax melted, leaving a hollow that was later filled with molten gold. When the mold cooled, the
clay was broken and the gold article removed and finished.

Pectoral: A very large pendant.

Poporos: Vessels for storing lime. The lime was made by pulverizing shells, and was mixed with
toasted cocoa leaves. The resulting chemical reaction produced the stimulating effects of a narcotic
drug that played an important role in rites and ceremonies.

Smelting: A process used to purify gold. Gold ore is melted along with other substances (fluxes)
that will chemically react with the undesirable non-gold minerals in the ore. For example, gold is
frequently associated with copper. In one smelting process for this type of gold, the ore is melted
and sodium nitrate is added to the liquid. The copper turns into copper nitrate, and the gold remains
gold. A second liquid is then added that dissolves the copper nitrate, but not the gold. Once cooled,
the gold can be easily separated from the other metals.

“Sweat of the Sun”: gold, because it was associated with the life-giving star, the supreme
procreator.

Tears of the Moon: silver.

 Tinculpa: A pectoral circular central representation of the head in relief. There are spirals, double
and two-headed tinculpas.

 Tumbaga: An alloy of gold and copper. To protect tumbaga pieces against the rapid discoloration
of the copper, they were gilded by oxidation.

 Tunjos: Human figures used as votive offerings, perhaps used in praying for miracles or giving
thanks. They were made in molds and not given any kind of finishing. They still retain the funnel
and pouring channels and the surplus metals.
                                  Bowers Museum
                     Sacred Gold: Pre-Hispanic Gold of Colombia
                            Recommended Bibliography
                             prepared by Cameron Walker, Ph.D.

Ammann, Felipe (2006)
“Golden Alienation: The Uneasy Fortune of the Gold Museum in Bogota”, Journal of Social
Archaeology, Vol. 6, pp. 227

Dusan de Reichel Dolmatoff, Alicia (1979)
“Some Observations on the Prehistoric Goldwork of Columbia”, Pre-Columbian Metallurgy of
South America”, pp. 41-52

Hosler, Dorothy (1988)
“Ancient West Mexican Metallurgy: South and Central American Origins and West Mexican
Transformation”, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vo. 90, No. 4 (Dec. 1988), pp. 832-855

Mann, Charles (2009)
“Pre-Columbian Societies Knew a Thing About Extracting Gold”, ScienceNow, Issue 1073,
pp. 2-2

Quilter, Jeffrey, and John Hoopes, Eds. (2003)
Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Columbia, Dumbarton Oaks, Wash. D.C.

Reichel-Dolmatoff, Gerardo (2005)
Goldwork and Shamanism, Museo del Oro del Banco de la Republica, Villegas Editores

Schultes, Richard, and Alec Bright (1979)
“Ancient Gold Pectorals From Columbia: Mushroom Effigies?”, Botanical Museum Leaflets,
Harvard University, May-June 1979, Vol. 27, Nos. 5-6

Scott, D.A. (1986)
“Gold and Silver Alloy Coatings Over Copper: An Examination of Some Artefacts From Ecuador
and Columbia”, Archaeometry 28, 1, pp. 33-50




Note: Dr. Cameron Jean Walker, Ph.D., is Lecturer and Research Associate, Department of
Anthropology, CSU Fullerton. Her areas of expertise includes Maya studies, particularly issues
surrounding the public interpretation and education about archaeological sites and archaeological
tourism. She is Vice President of the Archaeological Institute of America, the oldest and largest
archaeological organization in the world.

				
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