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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Pre-Columbian Gold : Tairona Gold Rattle Pendant of a Head
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Tairona Gold Rattle Pendant of a Head - FJ.5758
Origin: Colombia
Circa: 10 th Century AD to 15 th Century AD
Dimensions: 1.25" (3.2cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Gold

Additional Information: SOLD 14.5 grams
Location: United States
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At the time of the Spanish Conquest of the Americas, in the Sierra Nevada mountain chain of northern Colombia, a lively metallurgical tradition existed among the Chibcha-speaking Tairona. The Tairona culture began their process of consolidation as a social and political entity in the first centuries after Chirst, reaching their apex of development after 1000 A.D. when dense populations were grouped together in many urban centers. Today, over two hundred Tairona sites are known, ranging from the coastal lowlands to the heights of the mountains. Settlements of varying sizes reflect a hierarchical political order; several large centers controlled numerous smaller ones, through a chiefly and priestly elite. Tairona goldwork reveals a complex iconography often combining both animal and human features. The Kogi people of the Sierra Nevadas, modern descendents of the Tairona, do not value gold, or other metal and gems for that matter, as indicators of wealth and personal prestige. For them, gold is a symbol of potential fertility belonging to all members of their society. The sun, the penultimate procreating force, transmits its power to gold, presumably endowing the metal with its yellowish hue. We can presume that the Tairona originally viewed gold much the same way, as ornaments charged with potent symbolism relating to the continuation of life. This hollow pendant, containing a small ball that rattles within, most likely represents a trophy head, the decapitated relic of an enemy warrior. The fact that the pendant hangs from the loophole with the head upside down suggests this interpretation. When rival armies were defeated, those captured in battle were ceremonially sacrificed to the gods. Their heads were cut off from their bodies and conserved both as relics reflecting the victor’s military prowess and as potent talismans possessing magical powers. The force of an individual was believed to be contained within the head; thus, the energy of a sacrificed warrior could be withdrawn, imbuing the victorious army with the life force of their enemy. The sculptural modelling of this work further suggests that this head represents a decapitated enemy. He is depicted as a crude, ugly individual with huge ears, natty hair, and a mouthful of teeth. Today, this work continues to emit both the spiritual energy of the subject matter as well as the regenerative powers of the material. - (FJ.5758)


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