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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Archive : Tairona Gold Pendant
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Tairona Gold Pendant - AM.0451
Origin: Columbia
Circa: 900 AD to 1200 AD
Dimensions: 1.65" (4.2cm) high x 1.2" (3.0cm) wide
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Gold


Additional Information: SOLD

Location: Great Britain
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Description
At the time of the Spanish Conquest of the Americas, in the Sierra Nevada mountain chain of northern Colombia, a lively metallurgical tradition among the Chibcha-speaking Tairona. The Tairona culture began their process of consolidation as a social and political entity in the first centuries after Christ, reaching their apex of development after 1000 A.D. when dense populations were grouped together in many urban centers. Today, over two hundred Tairona sites are known, ranging from the coastal lowlands to the heights of the mountains. Settlements of varying sizes reflect a hierarchical political order; several large centers controlled numerous smaller ones, through a chiefly and priestly elite. Tairona goldwork reveals a complex iconography often combining both animal and human features. The Kogi people of the Sierra Nevadas, modern descendents of the Tairona, do not value gold, or other metal and gems for that matter, as indicators of wealth and personal prestige. For them, gold is a symbol of potential fertility belonging to all members of their society. The sun, the penultimate procreating force, transmits its power to gold, presumably endowing the metal with its yellowish hue. We can presume that the Tairona originally viewed gold much the same way, as ornaments charged with potent symbolism relating to the continuation of life.

Gazing upon this gold sculpture of a squatting man, we can identify certain emotions we recognize from our own lives: perseverance in the face of exhaustion. Carrying a large woven basket upon his back (fantastically rendered by a series of spiraling gold coils), he appears to have momentarily rested and, having caught his breath, prepares to prop himself back upon his feet and continue with his journey. Although naked, he is adorned with bracelets, anklets, and a thick necklace. A strap supporting the basket wraps around his forehead like a headband. Most remarkable, he wears a nose ornament not unlike those actual examples that have survived the Spanish Conquest. With two loop rings attached to his shoulders, this pendant would have likely been strung upon a necklace and worn during long-forgotten ancient ceremonies. - (AM.0451)

 

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