Cast gold lime-flask of a seated female


British Museum

British Museum

The cast gold lime-flasks made by the Quimbaya culture are wonderful examples of the astonishing virtuosity achieved by pre-Columbian artisans.Various types of Quimbaya gold artefacts were adorned with human figures, which were sometimes portrayed wearing lime-flasks hanging from their neck. The flasks held lime obtained from burning and grinding seashells. The alkaline lime was chewed with coca leaves to release their active stimulant and enhance clear, contemplative thinking. Even today coca is used to intercede with the ancestors among several people of Colombia, such as the Kogi. The sense of inner concentration conveyed by the figures depicted on the flasks is consistent with this ritual use. The spiral motifs may allude to sprouting vegetation and suggest that the flasks were used in fertility rites to invoke ancestral sources of power and ensure the seasonal regeneration of plants and fruits essential to sustain human life.This lime-flask was cast by the lost-wax method.

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  • Title: Cast gold lime-flask of a seated female
  • Date Created: -500/700
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 14.50cm; Width: 7.50cm; Depth: 5.50cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: lost-wax cast
  • Registration number: Am1940,11.2
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Cauca Valley
  • Period/culture: Early Quimbaya
  • Other information: Cultural rights may apply.
  • Material: tumbaga
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Art Fund. Purchased from Davies. Previous owner/ex-collection Davies, Edmund