Breastplate with zoomorphous figures

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta - Nahuange Period200/900

Museo del Oro, Bogotá

Museo del Oro, Bogotá
Bogota, Colombia

This chest plate manufactured by the goldsmiths of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta during the Nahuange period is a unique piece because of the quality, number and type of images it exhibits. During the Nahuange period of the Sierra, between 200 B.C. and 1000 A.D., the goldsmiths were interested in making hammered ornaments in tumbaga, an intentional alloy of copper and gold. Normally this type of objects presented characters with rich attires and accompanied by birds or snakes, but in this case the main character is a lizard. Its tail is outlined with embossing and carved lines reproducing the mobile tails of these amphibians with great realism. The body, the limbs, the neck and the head –where only the eyes are visible– were designed by means of embossed lines and dots. Due to its features, it would seem to be one of the many small reptiles running around the stones of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. With the two small lizards on each side and the eight herons and two ducks that complete the piece, we have a fauna scene that could well be seen near the swamp that is known today as the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta.

But when observed closely, the delicate traits of the lizard and the central circles contrast with the rough lines delimiting the figures of the other animals. Was this piece manufactured by a master and an apprentice? Would the value of the central piece be different from the complementary ones? JSS


  • Title: Breastplate with zoomorphous figures
  • Creator: Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta - Nahuange Period
  • Creator Lifespan: 200/900
  • Creator Nationality: Colombia
  • Creator Death Place: Colombia
  • Creator Birth Place: Colombia
  • Date: 200/900
  • Physical Dimensions: w148 mm
  • Type: Goldwork
  • External Link: People and Gold in Pre-Hispanic Colombia
  • Technique: Hammered and embossed tumbaga
  • Finding: Colombia, Magdalena, Santa Marta
  • Accession number: O11127

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