Coclé. <em>Plaque with Crocodile Deity</em>, 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 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 33.448.12_SL1.jpg)

Plaque with Crocodile Deity


Medium: Gold

Geograhical Locations:

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)


Museum Location: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor


Accession Number: 33.448.12

Image: 33.448.12_SL1.jpg,

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.

Brooklyn Museum