Anthropomorphic pendant

A pendant in the form of a man of high social rank in the Calima society. There is a ring at the back of the head so that this pendant can be hung from a necklace. The man is wearing a large and broad circular headdress with two plates hanging from each side of it. The body is covered solely by a pendant hanging over his chest and also a loincloth. His arms are bent at a right angle with the forearms extending forward. In one hand he holds a rod and it the other some palm leaves. This is, without doubt, a beautiful example of the pieces of quality produced by the goldsmiths of Colombia.

The Calima culture spread in the east of Colombia from 1600 BC until the 6th century AD, in the department of the Cauca Valley, in the valleys of the San Juan, the Dagua and the Calima Rivers. The name of the culture originates from the geographic zone where archaeological vestiges of this culture were found.

The culture takes in different peoples who lived in the region over different period of time, but given the similarities in the archaeological remains, and the fact that these peoples inhabited the same zones, they have all been classified as one sole culture.

The society was divided into cacicazgos, chiefdoms governed by a chief-priest. The culture practised polygamy, so that men had a first wife and secondary wives. The women had an important role in this society as they took part in farming and cattle raising. Calima pottery can be identified by its geometric decoration. Most pieces of their pottery were vessels for daily use but there are also examples of zoomorphic and anthropomorphic sculptures. Some of the most representative pieces are the canasteros, which represent people carrying baskets. In the Calima valley there was also a notable presence of gold working, as can be seen by the numerous pieces worked in gold and tumbaga that have been found in the region, the most impressive of which are from the Yotoco phase.

The working of metals appeared in Colombian regions towards the 6th Century BC when societies which had artisans skilled in working metals lived on the Pacific coast. During the two thousand years of development of metal working in Colombia, interrupted by the Spanish conquest in 1500 AD, a dozen different styles emerged, combining different techniques on diverse alloys and producing great quantities of exceptional quality. These were notable for their equilibrium and composition which give the Pre-Hispanic working of metals in Colombia an outstanding place in world art. The main themes seen are the human figure, animals, geometric forms and a combination of all of these.

The technique of lost wax casting is a sculptural procedure using a mould made from a prototype of the piece to be worked, and this prototype is usually made from beeswax. This is covered with a thick layer of soft material, usually clay, which then solidifies. Once this has hardened it is put in a kiln where the wax inside melts and leaks out from expressly made holes in the clay. In its place molten metal is injected and this takes on the exact form of the mould. To remove the final piece the mould must be removed.


Oro de Colombia. Chamanismo y orfebrería”. Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino. Santiago de Chile. 2005. (pp. 59 – 60).


Museo del Oro de Colombia.
Museo del Oro de Calima, Colombia.

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