Among pre-Columbian cultures of Mexico and Central and South America, gold was associated with the life-renewing properties of the sun and therefore had sacred and supernatural powers. In ancient Panama, gold ornaments were usually reserved for elite members of society who possessed both political and supernatural powers, because chiefs were surely also priests or shamans. According to early Spanish sources, Panamanian chiefs wore gold ornaments to war as well as to the grave. This large plaque, embossed with a design of a crocodilian deity, probably pays tribute to a sacred ancestor with whom ancient Panamanian chiefs and other high-ranking individuals identified.
- Medium: Gold
- Place Found: Sitio Conte, Cocle Province, Panama
- Dates: ca. 700
- Dimensions: 9 x 8 1/2 in. (22.9 x 21.6 cm) mount (Support board prepared in 2012): 10 1/2 x 11 x 1 1/4 in. (26.7 x 27.9 x 3.2 cm) (show scale)
- Collections:Arts of the Americas
- Museum Location: This item is on view in Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
- Accession Number: 33.448.12
- Credit Line: Museum Expedition 1931, Museum Collection Fund
- Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY
- Caption: Plaque, ca. 700. Gold, 9 x 8 1/2 in. (22.9 x 21.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1931, Museum Collection Fund, 33.448.12. Creative Commons-BY
- Catalogue Description: Plaque of hammered gold with an embossed anthropomorphic reptilian figure. Similar figures also appear on painted pottery and cast goldwork. The six pierced holes indicate that it was probably attached to a garment. Condition: good; there are small tears along the edges and in the interior, but all are stable. The six pierced holes have jagged edges and there are concentrated burnishing marks in the repoussé. Label text: Among pre-Columbian cultures, gold was associated with the life-renewing properties of the sun, and therefore had sacred and supernatural powers. Gold ornaments were usually reserved for elite members of society. Large plaques embossed with designs of crocodilian deities, accompanied the burials of paramount chiefs and other high-ranking members of ancient Panamanian society.
- Record Completeness: Best (86%)