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Plaque with Crocodile Deity

Arts of the Americas

In Panama, the crocodile god, likely associated with strength, the sun, water, and fertility, was the principal deity for more than a thousand years. The ruling elite probably wore prestige ornaments such as this one to imbue themselves with the power of crocodiles, fierce animals connected to the underworld for their ability to float on water and drag their prey underneath to drown it. The crocodilian being on this plaque may be a creator god or a transformative image of the wearer.
MEDIUM Gold (tumbaga)
DATES ca. 700–900
DIMENSIONS 8 1/2 x 9 in. (21.6 x 22.9 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
CREDIT LINE Museum Expedition 1931, Museum Collection Fund
PROVENANCE Grave 5, layer 2, Sitio Conte, Panama; 1931, excavated by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge, MA; December 1, 1933, purchased from the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology by the Brooklyn Museum.
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CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Plaque of hammered gold with an embossed anthropomorphic reptilian figure representing the Crocodile God. 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.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Coclé. Plaque with Crocodile Deity, ca. 700–900. Gold (tumbaga), 8 1/2 x 9 in. (21.6 x 22.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1931, Museum Collection Fund, 33.448.12. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 33.448.12_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 33.448.12_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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