Pair of earrings

Outstanding pair of earrings made from gold lamina and with various motifs. In the upper area we find a geometric figure of a half-moon with the ends curving downward. At each end of this half-moon we find the figure of a monkey in profile, looking outward from the piece in a symmetrical manner. A small gold strip extends from the inner concave area of the half-moon to connect with the lower section of each earring. This is made up of a vegetal motif with eight circles in relief, most probably a schematic depiction of some fruit.

The double name of this culture is due to the fact that it developed in a zone made up of the department of Nariño in the extreme south of Colombia, and the province of Carchi in the north of Ecuador. This territorial division has made investigation difficult, and for this reason, a more extensive documentation is not available of the very rich culture which developed in this region approximately from the 8th century AD, and which was made up of a society of traders, pastoralists and agriculturalists.

The variety of the craftwork is of note, especially the production of anthropomorphic sculptures, among which the figures of seated men, women and warriors with wide-brimmed hats stand out. Domestic scenes are commonly depicted, and in many cases the statues of men, showing bulging cheeks, demonstrate that they are chewing wads of coca leaves. For this reason these figures are labelled “coqueras”. The so-called “Carchi discs” also are of note, discs which the people of this culture used to deposit in cylindrical well tombs of a metre in diameter. These grave goods would also include masks and other artefacts used in everyday life.

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.

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