Ornament Depicting a Fanged Earth God


The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Houston, United States

This ornament depicts a fanged earth god. Streams of blood flow from its mouth, and coiled snakes slither along the top of its head. This deity was related to agricultural renewal and fertility.

From 900 to 200 BC the Chavín culture inhabited the highlands of the Pacific coast of present-day northern Peru. This dry region between the mountains and sea was subject to periods of violent floods and droughts. Agricultural fertility was a primary concern, and the people sought supernatural help to ensure their survival.

The Chavín believed that gold was the substance of the sun and that it possessed spiritual power. They were one of the first Pre-Columbian cultures to make gold artworks. The Chavín are famous for intricate, intertwined images of condors, felines, and serpents--religious symbols of fertility and divinity. Gold art was worn only by rulers and shamans, who were believed to have supernatural abilities. Chavín art was found in graves and sanctuaries.


  • Title: Ornament Depicting a Fanged Earth God
  • Creator: Chavin
  • Date Created: -0900/-0200
  • Physical Dimensions: w11.7 x h8.2 cm (overall)
  • Type: Metalwork
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Gold
  • Culture: Chavin
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.


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