Gold Pendant of a Shaman Wearing an Avian Costume

SKU PF.4044

700 AD to 1200 AD


4″ (10.2cm) high





Gallery Location



Gold objects rapidly became the primary symbols of authority and prestige in ancient Panamanian society. Important people bedecked their bodies with gold. They used it to bribe allies and to pay ransoms for captured sons. In times of danger, they hoarded it in secret places in large baskets. Customarily referred to as a ‘god’, this magnificent gold pendant is more reasonably interpreted as a tribal man-animal culture hero, a mythical warrior, or an alter ego. One of the first most notable characteristics of this dynamic figure is the long, gently curving beak. This might be interpreted as an eagle or a King Vulture. There is a curious triangular- shaped headdress positioned on his forehead. Two dramatically twisting serpents or iguanas flow from the top of his head. The consumption of iguana meat, associated with warrior elites, had a ritual significance in ancient Panama. Below the wide spread arms or “wings”, this gallant figure is clad in a belt. Since the belt emanates from the area of the penis, it possibly has sexual or procreative significance. Protruding forth from the knees are two heads with prominent crocodilian teeth and upturned snouts ending in a volute. The technological skill, refined style and complex subject matter of this glimmering gold pendant is unsurpassed by its contemporaries.

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