Ancestral Wisdom Sacred Animals

Pendant in the shape of an insect cocoon Mid-Cauca. Quimbaya Culture. Early Period -500/700

Pendant in the shape of an insect cocoon

Title: Pendant in the shape of an insect cocoon
Creator: Mid-Cauca (Quimbaya) - Early Period
Date: -500/700
Physical Dimensions: w64 x h100 x d20 mm
Type: Goldwork
Location: Cosmology and Symbolism room
Technique: Lost wax casting with core, in tumbaga
Finding: Colombia, Cauca, Corinto
Accession number: O00089

A skilled goldsmith of the Mid Cauca region represented an immature or metamorphic insect in this slender hanging ornament with soft and rounded volumes characterising the Classic Quimbaya goldwork of the Early period. Shapes suggesting butterfly chrysalis or cicada nymphs are common in this goldwork but scarce in the other Colombian pre-Hispanic metallurgies, and they were topics of objects as sophisticated as this one, maybe not for economic value but for their symbolic importance. It is easy to think that their significance could be related to ideas of change, transformation or rebirth, predominant notions of the indigenous cosmology in the American continent. It is interesting to note that today the Mid Cauca is rich and diverse in butterflies, and this may have been even more notorious in the past, when the forests covered most of the mountains. The piece is manufactured magnificently in tumbaga –gold and copper alloy– by using the technique of lost wax casting with a core and a fine finish to obtain a smooth and shining surface. MAU

Animals feature heavily in pre-Hispanic art, as sacred and mystical beings, revered for their characteristics. The jaguar is perhaps the most respected animal as a symbol of power and strength. Butterflies are associated with the concepts of transformation and change. Bats are associated with night and the underworld.