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Plaque with Crocodile Deity

Arts of the Americas

On View: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
In Panama the Crocodile God was the principal deity for more than a thousand years and was most likely associated with strength, the sun and water, and fertility. The ruling elite probably wore prestige ornaments like this example in order to appropriate the power of crocodiles, fierce animals connected to the underworld since they float on water and drag their prey below to drown it. On this plaque the crocodilian being may be a creator god or a transformative image of the wearer. Smaller crocodiles surround the central figure, and the triangular border design simulates the animal’s protective ridge-like scales. The small holes around the border were probably used to attach the ornament to clothing.


En Panamá el Dios Cocodrilo fue la deidad principal por más de mil años y estaba probablemente asociado con la fortaleza, el sol y el agua, y la fertilidad. La élite gobernante posiblemente utilizaba ornamentos prestigiosos como éste para apropiarse del poder de los cocodrilos, fieros animales conectados al inframundo, ya que pueden flotar en el agua y arrastrar a su presa bajo ella para ahogarla. En esta placa el Ser Cocodrilo puede ser un dios creador o una imagen de transformación del usuario. Cocodrilos más pequeños rodean a la figura central, y el diseño triangular del borde simula las escamas sesgadas protectoras del animal. Los pequeños agujeros alrededor del borde eran usados posiblemente para asegurar el ornamento a la ropa.
CULTURE Cocle
MEDIUM Gold
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
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
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CAPTION Cocle. Plaque with Crocodile Deity, ca. 700-900. Gold, 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
IMAGE overall, 33.448.12_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
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. Label from "Life, Death, Transformation" Exhibition, 2013: In Panama the Crocodile God was the principal deity for more than a thousand years and was most likely associated with strength, the sun and water, and fertility. The ruling elite probably wore prestige ornaments like this example in order to appropriate the power of crocodiles, fierce animals connected to the underworld since they float on water and drag their prey below to drown it. On this plaque the crocodilian being may be a creator god or a transformative image of the wearer. Smaller crocodiles surround the central figure, the triangular border design simulates the animal’s protective ridge-like scales. The small holes around the border were probably used to attach the ornament to clothing.
RECORD COMPLETENESS Best (87%)
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