Pendant in the shape of a winged fish

San Agustín, Upper Magdalena Region - Regional Classical Period1/900

Museo del Oro, Bogotá

Museo del Oro, Bogotá
Bogota, Colombia

A beautiful and unique winged fish found in a grave in San Agustín in the Andean mountains, would have had to fly huge physical distances –but above all, cultural ones– to travel from the Pacific Ocean, where it is easy to see a winged fish, to the mountain tops that give birth to the Magdalena and the Cauca River –which flow to the North– and to those descending into the Amazon forests. Why would a winged fish hang from the neck of an ancient chieftain of the Isnos period in the area of San Agustín? It is wonderful that an object cast in gold with such a graceful and free shape corresponds to the same societies that carved massive statues in blocks of volcanic stone, portraying leaders with aggressive jaguar tusks wearing nose rings and hair bands like the metal ones found in their graves.

In fact, when looking closely, this bird-fish also has very marked teeth. It also has very prominent eyes, when frequently the least noticeable parts of a fish, and of many birds, except the prey ones, are their eyes. Teeth and eyes, and undoubtedly yellow colour, are features defining in the pre-Hispanic American world, the perfect icon of power: the feline, epitomized in the largest American feline, the jaguar. Fish, bird and jaguar: the three cosmologic symbols. For many current indigenous people in the Amazon and the Andes, our world is shaped as a disc. Above there are other discs, the home to many mythical creatures that the shaman, the religious leader, can reach out to by turning into a bird, and below are other humid discs, feminine and nocturnal, to reach out as a fish. The pendant would give the jaguar-man of San Agustín access to and power of the cosmos. EL


  • Title: Pendant in the shape of a winged fish
  • Creator: San Agustín, Upper Magdalena Region - Regional Classical Period
  • Date: 1/900
  • Physical Dimensions: w97 x h31 x d88 mm
  • Type: Goldwork
  • External Link: People and Gold in Pre-Hispanic Colombia
  • Technique: Lost wax casting in gold
  • Finding: Colombia, Huila, San Agustín
  • Accession number: O32924

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