Gilded Shell

Snail cover
Calima-Malagana Region. Yotoco Period -200/1300

Title: Snail cover
Creator: Calima-Malagana Region – Yotoco Period
Date: -200/1300
Physical Dimensions: w140 x h300 mm
Type: Goldwork
Location: The Working of Metals room
Technique: Hammered gold
Finding: Colombia, Valle del Cauca, Restrepo
Accession number: O03316

“At some point during the first centuries of our era, a goldsmith of the Valle del Cauca pressed seven thin layers of gold onto a snail shell. We can still appreciate the neat folds and the small clasps to the join the parts. The natural shell deteriorated but the gold preserved its shape”. JSS

The visit to the room Work in Metals in the Gold Museum of the Banco de la República in Bogotá (Museo del Oro) begins with this powerfully attractive object —and this text. The room is dedicated to the metallurgic technology of pre-Hispanic indigenous people. It brings together nature, represented by the snail shell, and culture depicted by the complex technological knowledge of obtaining gold, melting it at 1063°C to purify it and then hammering it to form sheets.

Here also converges the artistic sensibility of a goldsmith who knew how to bring out the beauty of the spiral shapes, and the political role of a chieftain whose messengers blew this snail horn to summon the community, as if the thunder voice of the Sun, golden like gold, came forward to support the power of the leader. EL