Tairona Pendant

Tairona Pendant

A Treasure Trove Of Ancient Gold

El Dorado today is a term which can mean any place of fabulous riches, but in the early 16th century it was specifically the highland Muisca kingdom where the ruler anointed himself with gold dust in order to make offerings in the sacred Lake Guatavita. As befits the land of El Dorado, the gold of ancient Colombia is stylistically, functionally and techni- cally varied.

An important and representative group of “Gold of El Dorado” will be on exhibit starting Tuesday at the Ameri- can Museum of Natural History, in- cluding several hundred gold objects made in Colombia during pre‐Hispanic times. The exhibition, on view until mid‐March of next year, is principally drawn from the collection of Colom- bia's impressive Museo del Oro in Bogota, which has been acquiring an- cient Colombian gold since 1939 and now has a large and incomparable col- lection.

Gold objects are well known among Colombian antiquities, but the makers of the gold objects are not well known. Written histories are not available for their lives and times, and the accom- plishments of these ancient peoples are virtual phantoms given substance

Julie Jones is a curator in the depart- ment of primitive art at the Metropoli- tan Museum.

chiefly bk‐archeology.Archeology is a painstaking and expensive science, and its progress is slow. Thus, much infor- mation about the gold is tentative. Dates, associations, meanings are often hypothetical. In the absence of other information, pre‐Hispanic Co- lombian gold is usually grouped geo- graphically, as it is in the present exhi- bition. Lake Guatavita and the legend of El Dorado briefly introduce the show and then the gold is presented by area. The goldworks of some of these geo- graphic areas are coherent stylistic en- tities, others are more complex and open‐ended. The objects from all the areas, and from whatever presumed period of time, are personal orna- ments, made to be worn or used by indi- viduals — if not for everyday use, cer- tainly for “dress‐up.” They are inti- mately scaled works that demand close attention from the viewer. Their images are often foreign to us their formal means often dissimilar one to the other, yet their elegance is both pervasive and subtle.

Among the objects of marked stylis- tic unity are those of the Muisca, a peo- ple who flourished at the time of the Spanish Conquest in the early 18th cen- tury. The Muisca are, of course, the people of El Dorado, and as such they are given special attention in the cur- rent show. The Muisca did not mine their own gold but traded for it, and their goldwork is quite different from that of other Colombian groups. Muisca gold does not have shiny surfaces. In- stead, surfaces are matte, with a spun quality of understated appeal. Also, the Muisca were unique in producing the small votive figures which were made specifically for offering purposes. These figures are invariably simpli- fied, flat shapes onto which all details of figure and face have been added by thin “wires.” They have a spontaneous charm which, coupled with their con- tent — women and children and warri- ors are common themes — marks their specialness. •

The Tairona, another people flourish- ing at the time of the Conquest, produced gold objects of coherent style. Living in northeastern Colombia, the Tairona were by all reports an ag- gressive, bellicose people. Their gold objects, however, are of a refined intri- cacy seemingly inconsistent with such reports. Were it not for the principal human image found in Tairona gold, a muscular little “warrior” figure, the inconsistency would seem even great- er. Tairona “warriors” do not carry any of the tools of the trade for identi- fication. They are identified as “warri- ors” principally by the fierce expres- sion on their faces. Pendants made in human form, which is what the Tairona figures are, are seldom as expressive as these, but the assertiveness is so consistent that it cannot be accidental. The samll, male figures stand with hands on hips, large lantern jaw thrust forward in an unmistakable challenge. The gold figures wear many ornaments about the face — as any high‐status an- cient Colombian would have — ear or- naments, lip plugs, nose rods, elabo- rate headdresses. Not only are Tairona figure pendants wearing such orna- ments in the exhibition, but full‐scale examples of all of them are shown as well.

No group of ancient Colombian gold is as renowned today for its artistry as that called Quimbaya. The gold objects of Quimbaya style, which are to be dis- tinguished from the larger Quimbaya geographic group, are presently thought to date to the second half of the first millennium A.D. They have long appealed to Western viewers because the three‐dimensional, sculptural shape is easily understood. While form can be understood, not much else about Quimbaya gold can be. An important type of the Quimbaya gold objects is a kind of flask used in ancient times to hold powdered lime. Lime flasks were part of the coca chewing paraphernalia which customarily included a lime spatula and a bag for carrying coca leaves as well. Quimbaya lime contain- ers of gold were often made in the form of nude human figures, both male and female. A number are also made in more recognizable bottle shapes. Ex- amples of both kinds of Quimbaya lime containers will be on view. A well- known group, of Quimbaya objects has been lent to the show by the British Mu- seum and it is a rare treat to have them, for a while, on this side of the At- lantic. Quimbaya gold surfaces will be the delight of those who think gold must glitter, for they are very smooth and shiny.

A word should be said about all that glitters not being gold. In all the gold- working areas of the ancient New World, gold was very often alloyed with other metals. Copper in particular was extensively used. There is a great deal of technological sophistication about making other metals look like gold. In the present exhibition there is a long section devoted to technology in which gold composition is discussed. In this section too, other technological aspects such as casting, hammering, and join- ing are presented.

“Gold of El Dorado” has as its logo a pendant from the Tolima region. Tolima pendants are arresting in de- sign at the same time as their image is difficult to explain. They are undated. The image on these pendants is of a splayed figure with flattened, schema- tized “arms” and “legs,” a large cre- sent shaped “tail” balancing the bot- tom.

Included in the exhibition are objects in other materials such as ceramic and stone, lest people think that only gold objects were produced in ancient Ca lombia. The exhibition was first shown in London where it was organized by Warwick Bray of the University of Lon- don. It has been somewhat changed for its United States tour by Craig Morris of the American Museum of National History. Ralph Appelbaum designed the current installation. •

Colombia, Tairona style, 10th-16th century

Tairona-style pendants are among the most spectacular of all ancient American gold ornaments, in part because of the detail achieved with lost-wax casting. The traits of the figure pendant include a lower lip ornament and a headdress in which two bats hang upside down. Although called caciques (chieftains), that is, ruler portraits, the meaning of such figures is not well understood. Bird imagery was important in the isthmian region in ancient times and remains so today. For instance, among the modern Bribri of Costa Rica, the principal creator deity (Sibo) takes the form of a buzzard or kite who wears a collar. Collars are standard features of ancient bird pendants, like the one shown here.

Cleveland, OH: The Cleveland Museum of Art September 10- October 16, 1966. "Golden Anniversary Acquisitions." Cat., no. 52, repr. p. 276.

Montpellier, France: Musee Fabre: July 16- September 29, 2002. Rouen, France: Musee des Beaux Arts October 24, 2002- January 13, 2003. Lyon, France: Musee des Beaux Arts February 19- April 28, 2003. Rennes, France: Musee des Beaux Arts May 27- August 18, 2003. Minneapolis, MN: Minneapolis Institute of Arts October 26, 2003- January 11, 2004. FRAME exhibition- "Sacred Symbols: Three Thousand Years of Native American Art."

Golden Anniversary of Acquisitions. The Cleveland Museum of Art (organizer) (September 10-October 16, 1966).

Sacred Symbols: Three Thousand Years of Native American Art [FRAME]. Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France (July 16-September 29, 2002) Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, Rouen, France (October 24, 2002-January 13, 2003) Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, 69001 Lyon, France (February 19-April 29, 2003) Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes, Rennes, France (May 27-August 18, 2003) Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN (organizer) (October 26, 2003-January 11, 2004).

Surround yourself with archeological treasures from ancient Latin America and gaze upon the remains of advanced civilizations like the Aztec, Maya, and Inca. This intimate gallery gives visitors a rare glimpse of exquisite stone, ceramic, and metal objects that are normally hidden away in back storerooms of the museum.

This Tairona bat-man pendant is made of gold and copper.

Stare into this 500 year old Aztec stone basin.

See many interesting ceremonial pots and bowls.

The artifacts and their cases in Visible Vault contain hundreds of treasures.


One of the best-known Tairona nucleated villages and archaeological sites is known as Ciudad Perdida (Spanish for "Lost City"). It was a major city, about 13 hectares (32 acres) in the "core". It was discovered by looters in 1975 but is now under the care of the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History. Recent demographic studies suggest that it was inhabited by approximately 1,500 to 2,400 people that lived in at least 11,700 square meters (124,000 square feet) of roofed space in 184 round houses built on top of stone paved terraces. There are many other sites of similar or greater size.

A larger site, Pueblito is located near the coast. According to Reichel-Dolmatoff's research, it contains at least 254 terraces and had a population of about 3000 people. Regional archaeological studies in the area show that even larger nucleated villages existed towards the western slope of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, like Posiguieca and Ciudad Antigua.

Smaller villages and hamlets were part of a very robust exchange network of specialized communities, connected with stone-paved paths. Villages specialized in salt production and fishing, like Chengue in the Parque Tairona, are evidence of a robust Tairona political economy based on specialized staple production. Chengue contains at least 100 terraces and was inhabited by about 800 to 1,000 people in 15 hectares by 1400. The Tairona are known to have built stone terraced platforms, house foundations, stairs, sewers, tombs, and bridges. Use of pottery for utilitarian and ornamental or ceremonial purposes was also highly developed as a result of fairly specialized communities.

Tairona Pendant - History

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Ancient Coins & Artifacts:

All of these Pre-Columbian artifacts were legally and ethically acquired, coming from old American and European collections, museum deaccessions and auctions throughout the US and Europe prior to UNESCO and subsequent international laws. Every item is painstakingly screened for authenticity and legality. Provenance is not always listed in every item description due to restricted space, but is provided on the certificate of authenticity that accompanies each item. Enjoy!

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Tairona culture, Colombia, c. 1000-1500 AD. Charming bone staff terminal in the form of a seated pelican with cross design on either side. Nice orange-brown coloration from age and mineral deposits. Small trace of red pigment below tail of pelican. A minor repair at feet and another at the bird’s neck, otherwise a nice piece! H: 3 3/4" (9.8 cm). #0310304: $375 SOLD
Jamacoaque culture, Ecuador, c. 900-1200 AD. Beautiful terracotta maskette. Nicely detailed with highly burnished surfaces. Intact with good age deposits and great style. Measures 3" (7.7 cm). Mounted on custom stand. See Labbe, "Columbia Before Columbus" for similar example. Ex East Coast collection. #1210358-2: $325 SOLD
Jamacoaque, Ecuador, c. 500 - 1000 AD. Nice ceramic whistle figure. Depicts a standing male with large, ornate headdress, wide necklace and loincloth. Mold-made with nice style and good detail. Losses to feet and hands, traces of red and yellow pigment, earthen deposits. Old collection number inked on back. Measures 122 mm (4 3/4"). Ex Dr. J. Hilsabeck estate, acquired from the 1950's to early 1980's. #PR2097: $299 SOLD
LaTolita, Ecuador, 400 BC - 400 AD. Great ceramic stamp seal. Depicts 3 individuals holding hands, probably a dance scene. 2-7/8" long. From the collection Bob Murray – Cleveland, GA, collected 1984 - 1987. Nice piece, blurry photo. #PR2156: $250 SOLD

Jamacoaque, Ecuador, c. 500 - 1000 AD. Great ceramic whistle figure. Depicts a standing deity, with snarling expression, wide collar, animal fur and loincloth. Mold-made with nice style and very nice detail. Losses to hands and feet, earthen deposits. Measures 115 mm (4 1/2"). Ex Dr. J. Hilsabeck estate, acquired from the 1950's to early 1980's. #PR2099: $275 SOLD

Jamacoaque, Ecuador, c. 500 - 1000 AD. Interesting ceramic whistle figure. Depicts an individual with large headdress, earspools, and large disc pendant around their neck. Very stylized form! Mold-made with nice style. Losses to legs and hands. Traces of black pigment, heavy mineral deposits. Old collection number inked on back. Measures 10 cm (3 7/8"). Ex Dr. J. Hilsabeck estate, acquired from the 1950's to early 1980's. #PR2098: $150 SOLD
Nicoya, ancient Costa Rica, c. 1000 – 1500 AD. An adorable Nicoya polychrome ceramic zoomorphic figure depicting a monkey deity. The head is nicely detailed and the arms encircle the chamber. Intact, good color and mineral deposits. H: 4-1/4". Ex Ray Rantala collection ex-Arte Xibalba, FL. Much nicer than this washed-out photo! A charming piece. #DJG003: $375 SOLD

Narino, Colombia, c. 850 - 1000 AD. Excellent small ocarina in the form of a sea-shell. Intact with beautiful reddish-tan burnished surfaces, holed through for suspension. 50 mm (1 15/16"). Would still make a nice pendant!Ex Joel L. Malter collection, Encino, CA. #PR2205: $199 SOLD
Olmec, Mexico, c. 1200-200 BC. Very large stone bead, carved of light green quartz(?) stone with iridescent crystaline spots. 28 mm (1 inch) diameter and quite thick. Very nice. From my own personal collection ex-Arte Xibalba, FL. #PR2339: $125 SOLD

Jamacoaque, Ecuador, c. 500 - 1000 AD. Excellent and HUGE ceramic stamp seal. Fragmentary but impressive, with ornate geometric designs. Nice style, crisp detail. Small excavation number inked on back. W: 68 mm (2 5/8"). Ex Dr. J. Hilsabeck estate, Orange County, CA, acquired from the 1950's to early 1980's. An excellent display-piece! #PR2134: $199 SOLD

Jamacoaque, Ecuador, c. 500 - 1000 AD. Great ceramic roller seal. Fragmentary but retaining intricate, deep-cut geometric designs possibly representing stylized animals or humanoid forms. 34 mm (1 3/8"). Ex Dr. J. Hilsabeck estate, Orange County, CA, acquired from the 1950's to early 1980's. #PR2133: $75 SOLD
Colombia, Tairona culture, 1st-11th century AD. Large deep dish with finely-etched linear designs. 7 1/4" dia. x 4 1/4" tall. Old museum numbers inked in red on base. Nice substantial piece, could still be used to store or display dry goods! Deaccessioned from the Tampa Museum of Art – Tampa, FL ex-Arte Xibalba, FL. #PRC272: $225 SOLD
Vera Cruz, Mexico, c. 600 - 900 AD. Fantastic Vera Cruz terracotta head. With expressive features including wide eyes, pointed nose and open mouth with protruding tongue. Wearing large ear-spools and a wide headdress. This attractive ceremonial censor is a rich, natural terracotta with a hollow cylindrical stem protruding from the back of the head and two large holes behind the ears. Mounted on a custom black metal base. Ex Northern California private collection. #A133461: $550 SOLD
Ancient Mexico. Chinesco, c. 50 – 200 AD. Interesting ceramic figure of a seated female. H: 5" (126 mm ). Legs widely splayed, her arms curved, hands on her hips. Her nose and breasts are raised, with traces of red pigment around her neck, face, waist, and pubic area. She wears large earspools and a tall curved headdress. With mineral deposits and some repair. From the estate of Fred Eisernam - Houston, TX. #PR2072: $175 SOLD
Guangala culture, Ecuador, c. 100-800 AD. Large ceramic neck-rest. Nice incised designs on top, lovely red slip. Broken, but still stands on its own. Root marks on surfaces, old excavation number inked on base. 147 mm (5 3/4") wide, 80 mm (3") tall. ex-Dr. John Hilsabeck estate collection, Orange County, CA, collected between 1950-1985 Beautiful example! #PR2079: SOLD

Tairona Pendant - History

The pre-Hispanic goldwork of Colombia is traditionally classified by archaeological zones, or regions, each with stylistic associations, varying in iconography and technology: Zenú (Sinú) and Tairona in northwestern Colombia, Muisca in the central highlands southeast of Bogotá, and in the southwest, Quimbaya, Calima, Tolima, and Nariño. TThe richly varied works were primarily objects of personal adornment. Pendants, headdress elements, pectorals, bracelets, anklets, and nose and ear ornaments probably functioned as ceremonial regalia for elite men. Tairona goldworkers produced some of the most elaborate gold objects made in the Americas—featuring delicate spirals, intricate line-work, and braided elements in cast filigree, Tairona ornaments often emphasize volume and three-dimensional form, as seen in this example.

Made to be suspended around the neck, the image on this gold pendant is flattened and bilaterally symmetrical for maximum decorative effect. Although not visible from the front, suspension loops are located on the reverse at the base of the bird head—craftsmen thus also cleverly adapted the natural forms of totemic creatures to the functional demands of the jewelry. This pendant depicts a frontal bird wearing an elaborate headdress of concentric spirals with dangles, and large wings extend from either side, while the crescent-shaped base forms the long outspread tail of the figure. Though it in unclear what type of bird is represented, it is likely a bird of prey, indicated by the sharply hooked beak.

Bird pendants, common among the cultures of Intermediate Central America, are found in a variety of sizes and styles and represent a number of different bird species. Both single and double bird pendants are common, though their exact meaning is unknown. Pendants were likely worn on ceremonial occasions, and similar pendants were still being worn at the beginning of the 16th century conquest. Bird imagery remained important to indigenous peoples of the region into the 20th century. For many peoples of the ancient Americas, birds were likely mythic figures, often considered intercessors between sky and land. Bird pendants may have offered protection to the wearer, and when represented in gold, such as this example, they are even more powerful. When worn together, as many of these personal gold ornaments undoubtedly were, they would have created a dazzling golden image.

Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Ceremonial mask (1976.W.321)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 33.

Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Headdress ornament with heads flanked by crested crocodiles (1976.W.319)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 34.

Carol Robbins, "Ceremonial mask (1976.W.321)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 178.

Anne R. Bromberg, Dallas Museum of Art: Selected Works (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1983), 45.

Carol Robbins, Label text [1976.W.298 1976.W.297 1976.W.292], A. H. Meadows Galleries.

Colombian jewelry – Muisca jewelry – Quimbaya jewelry – Tairona – Sinu

Articles of pre-columbian jewelry made in Colombia (which included the neighbouring region of Panama until 1903) by the various Indian tribes whose techniques and styles differed in the various regions.
The jewelry and many other objects were made of gold or tumbaga (a gold-copper alloy) from c. 300 BC until the conquest, c. 1539, of the country by the Spanish Conquistadors under Jimenez de Quesada. Among the articles that have been found are pectorals (often in the form of anthropomorphic figures), pendants, nose ornaments, ear ornaments labrets, masks and the indigenous tunjos (votive figures), poporas (lime flasks), and effigly flasks.

The pieces of Colombian jewelry were often made of thin, flat, hammered metal decorated with «repousse» work and chasing, sometimes with threads of false filigree, and fine examples were made by the «cire perdue» process.
The surviving pieces (over 5,000 are in the Museo del Oro, Bogota) are principally the result of plundering by grave robbers or of grave excavations by archaeologists in recent years a vast number of pieces were melted into ingots by the Conquistadors or after being taken to Spain.

However, much is believed to remain in the depths of Lake Guatavita, the circular mountain lake near Bogota into which, upon the installation of each Muisca chief (known as ‘El Dorado’ , on account of his being completely covered with gold dust), gold offerings a n d emeralds were thrown from his raft into the lake, as sacrifices to the gods.

Calima jewelry

Articles made in the Calima region of south-western Colombia (perhaps the oldest, c. 300 BC, in Colombia), often cut from nearly pure gold sheet metal and having hammered and «repousse» decoration, and sometimes having miniature work cast by the «cire perdue» process.

The articles are large, and include pectorals (sometimes decorated with «repousse» human faces), nose ornaments (sometimes with thin, dangling cylinders that vibrate), lime dippers and long pins (with ornate tops in the form of naturalistic or imaginative human or animal figures), funerary masks, and the ‘twistednail’ ear ornaments made of long, tightly coiled wire, and also a so-called ‘diadem’.

Muisca jewelry

made by the Chibcha-speaking Indians in the Muisca region of Colombia. One tribe, living on the high plateaux of central Colombia near present-day Bogota and near the sacred Lake Guatavita, was ruled by the legendary ‘El Dorado’ (The Gilded Man), at whose installation as new ruler he and the chiefs, going to the centre of the lake on a raft, threw gold jewelry and emeralds into the lake as offerings to the gods.

The region produced no gold but acquired it in abundance in exchange for its vast production of emeralds and salt. A piece of such gold jewelry is a necklace composed of many identical small figures of birds and abstract forms, presumably made by the use of a local invention, the matrix, for mass production.

Narino jewelry

made in the Narino region in the southernmost Andes of Colombia, bordering Ecuador. The objects were made of gold or tumbaga, and some of pale gold (indicating an alloy with silver). The objects were usually of flat hammered metal with cut-out or «repousse» decoration and highly burnished, and often featured a Monkey motif.

The main articles were cut-out crescent-shaped ear ornaments (width 6 to 14 cm) and cut-out nose ornaments, both with monkey figures, and metal discs with a pierced hole, probably to be suspended as mobiles.

Popayan jewelry

made by the Indians of the Popayan region in the High Andes of southern Colombia which are closely related to those of the nearby regions of San Augustin and Tierradentro. The articles included gold and copper discs, but nr notably the Popayan eagles.

Popayan eagle

is a type of pectoral, made of tumbaga in the Popaya, region of Colombia, that is in the form of an eagle with spread wings and tail, having helical ear ornaments, sometimes an anthropomorphic head and sometimes attached human legs and phallus.

Quimbaya jewelry

. Articles of pre-columbian jewelry made, strictly speaking, by the Quimbaya Indian tribe but, in customary usage, articles in the so-called Quimbaya style recovered from looted graves and tombs throughout the Middle Cauca Valley of the Andes in the middle of Colombia, made c. 400-1000, such as typified by the Quimbaya Treasure

The articles include pendants and masks with humanoid faces, pectorals of cut-out humonoid figures (sometimes with suspended discs), poporas (lime flasks) and Lime-dippers, effigly flacks, helmets, finger-grips for spear-throwers, nose ornaments, ear ornaments, and pectoral discs.

Sinu jewelry

made in the Sinu region of northern Colombia, near Panama.

Among the many articles made of gold and tumbaga are:
– semi-circular ear ornaments in lacy openwork patterns made by the «cire perdue» process, requiring great skill owing to the thread-like channels through which the molten gold had to flow before cooling
– wide, semi-circular breastplates of hammered metal with «repousse» breasts and decoration
– wide nose ornaments of flat, slanting strips of metal
– pendants in the form of naturalistic or stylized anthropomorphic figures made of cast gold with «repousse» work and false filigree decoration
– necklaces with gold beads
– ‘staff heads’ (of unknown use) with animalistic tops.

Tairona jewelry

made in the Tairona region of northern Colombia along the Caribbean coast by the Indian tribes who lived in towns of the lowlands and, when subdued by the Conquistadors, moved into the high valleys of the Sierra Nevada.
Their descendants, the Kogi and the Ika, the only tribes remaining today from the early Indians, no longer make jewelry.

The Tairona jewelry, made of gold or tumbaga, usually cast by the «cire perdue» process but sometimes flat and hammered, includes pendants in the form of:
– a mythological creature combining anthropomorphic, eagle, and bat characteristics,
– an anthropomorphic figure wearing detailed miniature replicas of all types of local jewelry,
– a bird with a large beak.

Other articles are non-representational pendants of anchor shape, labrets, ear and nose ornaments, necklaces (some with carnelian or stone beads), spacer beads, and spiral spectacle-shaped ornaments. Two gold pendants have been found in Venezuela just east of the Tairona region they have been ascribed to Tairona jewelry, as no other gold jewelry from Venezuela is known.

Tolima jewelry

Articles of pre-columbian jewelry made in the Tolima region of Colombia, south-west of Bogota, inhabited by the Panche and Pijao tribes. Most typical are the large (height, c. 10 to 22 cm) pectorals of gold or tumbaga, made by the Pijaos, in the form of stylized ‘silhouette’ anthropomorphic figures of cast and hammered flat sheet metal with angular arms and legs, sometimes a flat prolongation of the spine as a sort of crescent-shaped tail, and sometimes false filigree facial features.

Some such pectorals were decorated with many symmetrical openwork slits. Other articles were pendants of similar silhouette form (sometimes strung on a necklace) in the form of fantastic animals.

Tumaco jewelry

Articles of pre columbian jewelry made in the Tumaco region along the Pacific and extending across the border of present-day Colombia and Ecuador.
The objects were made of gold and tumbaga, but also here of platinum which was found in the local rivers.

Tairona Pendant - History

The pre-Hispanic goldwork of Colombia is traditionally classified by archaeological zones, or regions, each with stylistic associations, varying in iconography and technology: Calima, Quimbaya, Tolima, and Nariño in the southwest Muisca in the central highlands southeast of Bogotá and Zenú (Sinú) and Tairona in northwestern Colombia. The richly varied works were primarily objects of personal adornment. Pendants, headdress elements, pectorals, bracelets, anklets, and nose and ear ornaments probably functioned as ceremonial regalia for elite men.

Tairona goldworkers produced some of the most elaborate gold objects made in the Americas—featuring delicate spirals, intricate line-work, and braided elements in cast filigree, Tairona ornaments often emphasize volume and three-dimensional form, while others remain simpler in form and decoration, such as this example. When worn together, as many of these personal gold ornaments undoubtedly were, they would have created a dazzling golden image.

Adapted from

Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Ceremonial mask (1976.W.321)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 33.

Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Headdress ornament with heads flanked by crested crocodiles (1976.W.319)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 34.

Carol Robbins, "Ceremonial mask (1976.W.321)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 178.

Carol Robbins, Label text [1976.W.298 1976.W.297 1976.W.292], A. H. Meadows Galleries.

Tairona Pendant - History

The Tairona were a precolombian civilization in the region of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the present-day Magdalena and La Guajira Departments of Colombia, South America which goes back to the 1st century AD and showed documented growth around in the 11th century. The Tairona people formed one of the two principal groups of the Chibcha and were pushed into submarginal regions by the Spanish conquest. The Kogi indigenous people who live in the area today are direct descendants of the Tairona.

Knowledge sources about the precolombian Tairona civilization are limited to archaeological findings and a few written references from the Spanish colonial era. A major city of the Tairona and archaeological site is today known as Ciudad Perdida (Spanish for "Lost City"), it was discovered by treasure hunters in 1975. The Tairona are known to have built terraced platforms, house foundations, stairs, sewers, tombs, and bridges from stone. Use of pottery for utilitarian and ornamental/ceremonial purposes was also highly developed.

Tairona Gold Pendants - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

The Tairona civilization is most renown for its distinctive goldwork. The earliest known Tairona goldwork has been described for the Neguanje Period (from about 300- 800 AD) and its use within the Tairona society appears to have extended beyond the elite. The gold artifacts made comprise pendants, lip-plugs, nose ornaments, necklaces, and earrings. Gold cast Tairona figure pendants (known as "caciques") in particular stand out among the goldworks of precolumbian America because of their richness in detail. The figurines depict human subjects - thought be noblemen or chiefs - in ornate dresses and with a large animal mask over the face. Many elements of their body posture (e.g., hands on their hips) and dress signal an aggressive stance and hence are interpreted as evidence for the power of the wearer and the bellicose nature of Tairona society.

The Kogi

The tribe known as 'Los Kogui' are today's custodians of the Tairona culture. They have a population of approximately 12,000 people. The and are called the Kogi. The Kogi plant crops and live off the land. They prefer not to mix with outsiders. Few Colombians, or those from the outside worlds, are allowed to enter their mountain. They marry in their culture. The Kogi constantly move about from place to place, between their different abodes spread among the different levels of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. This is looked upon as taking care of their nutritional needs without abusing the environment.

The Kogi or Cogui or Kagaba, translated "jaguar" in the Kogi language are a Native American ethnic group that lives in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. Their civilization has continued since the Pre-Columbian era. The Kogi language belongs to the Chibchan family.

The Kogi claim to be descendants of the Tairona culture, which flourished before the time of the Spanish conquest. The Tairona were forced to move into the highlands when the Caribs invaded around 1000 CE, according to the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress which allowed them to evade the worst effects of the Spanish colonization. Like so many ancient myths concerning holy mountains at the "centre of the world", their mythology teaches that they are "Elder Brothers" of humanity, living in the "Heart of the World" (the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta). Those not living in the Heart of the World are called "Younger Brothers." Their mythology suggests that these Younger Brothers were sent away from the heart of the world long ago, seemingly in reference to these same Carib people who are said to have originated from South America.

The Sierra Nevada, in the shape of a pyramid, rises from the sunny coasts of the Caribbean tropics to the chilly, snow-capped peaks that reach a height of 17,000 feet above sea level, all in only 30 horizontal miles. Within just fifty kilometres the northern slopes descend from snow capped peaks to the turquoise waters, tropical jungle shores and coral reefs of the Caribbean ocean.

Day and night are of equal length all year round.

The area has every eco-system in its 17,000 km2 area (8,000 sq. miles) You can find coral reefs, mangroves, arid deserts, rain and cloud forest, and in the higher elevations, plains and snow-capped peaks with temperatures close to 20 degrees C. The highest peak is the Pico Simon Bolivar at 5,775 metres.

In 1965, archeologists found the remains of a lost Tairona religious center and called it the 'Lost City.' It is a three-day hike in dense jungle to witness a true wonder of the past. It is believed that there are two more lost cities.

These highlands are inhabited by the Gods and the spirits of the dead. A universe of signs and symbols, this territory is a veritable "open book" which is their bridge to the world and their collective history.

The Kogi believe the Sierra Nevada to be the 'Place of Creation' and the 'Heart of the World'. They call themselves the Elder Brothers of humanity and consider their mission to care for planet. They understand how the planet works as an integrated unit rather than the separation of all things in our worlds.

Much like other ancient tribal civilizations, that still exist on the planet, they believe themselves to be the custodians of the planet Earth here to keep things in balance.

The Kogi base their lifestyles on their belief in "The Great Mother," their creator figure, whom they believe is the force behind nature, providing guidance. The Kogi understand the Earth to be a living being, and see the colonizers' mining, building, pollution and other activities damaging the Great Mother.

From birth the Kogi attune their priests, called Mamas, to the mystic world called Aluna. It is in this "spirit-realm" that the Mamas operate to help the Great Mother sustain the Earth. Through deep meditation and symbolic offerings, the Mamas believe they support the balance of harmony and creativity in the world. It is also in this realm that the essence of agriculture is nurtured: seeds are blessed in Aluna before being planted, to ensure they grow successfully.

They achieve this through meditation wherein they communicate with all living things on the planet - humans, animals, plants, rock, etc.

They live in Aluna, an inner world of thought and potential. From Aluna they astral travel or remote view to places both on and off the physical planet. Their sacred lands are perceived as a metaphysical symbol of cosmic forces within the whole world - an oracle of the natural balance and health of the planet.

As with other indigenous tribes, Kogi society has changed little in the past five centuries. They survived as a culture because the Kogi focus all their energy on the life of the mind as opposed to the life of a body or an individual. Fundamental to that survival is the maintenance of physical separation from their world and the rest of humanity. They are very protective of their sacred space and the dense jungle is not kind to tourists.

They worry about the destruction of the rain forest as well as the planet itself. This area embraces some of the most biologically diverse tropical rainforests on the planet. The Kogi are inseparable from the rainforest habit in which they have lived since the dawn of time.

Through oracle propheices and message with Spirit, they are aware of a great change that is coming now to planet Earth. Their Mountain is dying, symbolizing this transition. Similar to what many other tribes around the world see is a world that was about to be destroyed by the misuse of consciousness. Then they saw the emergence of light consciousness as part of the process of humanity emerging as a race of beings in higher evolved light bodies. This strongly connects with the metaphysical teachings of our times.

Shamanic Practices - Coca Plant

Kogi Mamas are chosen from birth and spend the first nine years of childhood in a cave in total darkness learning the ancient secrets of the spiritual world or Aluna. They are the priests and judges who control Kogi society.

All major decisions and shamanic work are done by Divination. All is the world of Aluna, so the Mamas see a reflection of the physical world first in the spiritual world. If Aluna is the Mother, then the Kogi listen to the Mother by divining. This lost technique of divination is what keeps the Kogi world in balance and order.

The Mamas - as with other spiritual tribal leaders around the world - are worried that the Younger Brother has not heeded the first warning. If the Sierra Nevada or the Mother dies, the world will also die.

They use the coca bush for many things. Myths reveal that it was the Aluna herself who instituted coca chewing among the Kogi and who gave a lime gourd to her first son, as a symbolic wife. Other myths tell that coca was originally discovered in the flowing hair of a young girl who let her father only participate in its use. An envious and jealous young man transformed himself into a bird and, after watching the girl bathing in the river, seduced her. When he returned home and changed back into human shape, he shook his hair and out of it fell two coca seeds.

Small plantations of coca shrubs are found near all Kogi settlements, and provide the men with tender green leaves, plucked by the women. All adult men chew the slightly toasted leaves, adding to the moist wad small portions of lime. Coca shrubs are planted and tended by the men but the leaves are gathered by women. Periodically the men toast these leaves inside the temple, using for this end a special double-handled pottery vessel. This ritual vessel made by a Kogi priest can be used only for the toasting of coca leaves.

When chewed with coca, lime is a substance which helps the mucous membranes in the mouth absorb the alkaloids in the leaves. The Kogi produce Lime by burning sea shells on a small pyre carefully constructed with chosen splints. The fine white powder is then sifted into a ritual gourd which is carried by all men.

The Lime container consists of a small gourd which is slightly pear-shaped and perforated along the top. While all lime gourds consist of the same raw material, the wood of the stick which is inserted into it, must correspond to the patriline of the owner. Each patriline uses a different wood taken from the trees belonging to certain botanical species. The length of the stick may vary from 20 to 30cms. and, together with the degree of surface polish, these various characteristics identify its owner. An initiated Kogi man will easily recognise the patriline of his companions, simple by looking at their lime sticks.

The symbolic importance of the lime container and its stick is manifold. In one, most important image, the gourd is a woman. During the marriage ceremony the mama gives the bridegroom a gourd with these words: "Now I give you a lime gourd I give you a woman." He then hands the bridegroom the lime stick and orders him to perforate with it the gourd at its upper end, thus symbolising the act of deflowering the bride.

Both men and women say quite openly that coca chewing has an aphrodisiacal effect upon male sexuality, and newly wed couples are very outspoken about this. Male initiation, marriage, and habitual coca chewing are three elements which coincide at a certain period in a young mans life. Young men sometimes say that they dislike coca chewing but most of them, sooner or later, yield to the pressures exercised by the priests and the older generation, and adopt the habit.

While slowly chewing some twenty or thirty toasted leaves, the man will wet the lower and slightly pointed end of the stick with saliva and will insert it into the gourd. Withdrawing the stick again he will put the adhering lime into his mouth. Immediately he will rub the stick around the top of the gourd in a circular motion. Eventually, this daily repeated action of rubbing the stick on the gourd surface begins to form a thin layered crust of yellowish-white lime that covers the upper part of the container. Some old lime gourds display a disc shaped accretion of up to 10cms. in diameter, carefully fashioned by the gourd's owner.

The many symbolic meanings of coca chewing and of the physical objects involved in this act, form a coherent whole. In macrocosmic perspective, a lime gourd is a model of the universe the stick when inserted, becomes a world axis, and knowledgeable men will be able to talk at great length, explaining the structure of the universe in terms of levels, rims or directions appearing on the gourd.

On another scale, the gourd can be compared to the Sierra Nevada the lime-splattered upper part are the snow peaks, and the stick is the world axis. Certain mountain peaks, crowned with white, rocky cliffs, are the Sun's lime containers, and so are all the temples and houses.

The coca plant is an integral part of the Kogi way of life, deeply involved with their traditions, religion, work and medicine. Perhaps the most ancient use of coca in South America is its employment in shamanistic practises and religious rituals. The mild mental excitation induced by chewing the coca leaves enables the shaman to enter more easily into a trance state in which he could communicate with the spiritual forces of nature and summon them to his aid.

Large scale deforestation and clearing of the jungle is posing a massive threat to the natural habitat of the Sierra Nevada and its flora and fauna. In recent years the sinister illusion of the marijuana cultivation practised by settlers from inland and fueled by encouragement by the Columbian and International mafia has destroyed vast areas of the jungle.

As the world becomes 'smaller' - and 'old' meets 'new' - even the most ancient civilizations will become part of the evolution now occurring for all of humanity as a race. Nothing in human history ever remains the same as we move through our journey back to our spiritual origins.

In 1990 the Kogi decided they must speak out to the rest of the world. They had survived by keeping themselves isolated but they decided that it was time to send a message to the Younger Brother. They could see that something was wrong with their mountain, with the heart of the world. The snows had stopped falling and the rivers were not so full. If their mountain was ill then the whole world was in trouble.

The Mamas sent one of the Kogi who spoke Spanish to contact a British film maker who was in Colombia at that time. They asked the BBC to make a film to tell the Younger Brother about their concern. It was called 'The Elder Brother's Warning 'or' The Message from the Heart of the World'. Alan Ereira, the producer, has also written a book about the Kogi called The Heart of the World.

Since the film was brought out many changes have taken place. The film had a major impact on the Colombian Government and also on the grave robbers. The grave robbers felt that they should stop because they felt bad about disturbing their ancestors. There are now two Kogi members of parliament. The Tairona Heritage Trust was set up to support the Kogi and to buy back some of the original Kogi lands to give them a passage to the sea.

The Kogi people live largely in peace amongst themselves and their environment. They use slash-and-burn farming methods each family tends farms at varying altitudes of the Sierra, producing different crops to satisfy the range of their needs, they also raise cattle on the highlands.

To penetrate a Kankurua is to enter into contact with the nine worlds and the nine states of consciousness that make it up. Some say they have moved beyond verbal language, using tones to create colorful images in their minds rather than thoughts expressed as sentences. Some Kogi speak telepathically to each other.

According to Drunvalo Melchizedek .

The Kogi do not see us as 'sleeping' as many of the Hindu and Oriental religions do. The Kogi see humans as dead, shadows of the energy of what they could be. This is because they do not have enough life force energy and consciousness to be classified by them as real people.

The Kogi set out to find out why the 'dead ones' were still on Earth. As they searched the living vibrating records of this reality, they found exactly where and why it had happened. Some of the 'dead ones' had become alive, and had created a dream with enough life force to save the world as we know it.

They created a parallel world where life could continue to grow, a world where the dead could become alive. The Kogi were so specific to locate exactly who these people were that were creating this change that had altered the world's destiny.

The Kogi see these people with living bodies with light around them, people who had activated their Light Bodies or in the ancient terms, their Mer-Ka-Ba.

Watch the video: Pueblo Wiwa, WIMAKE; Living Vestige of Ancient Tayrona Culture in Colombia