Coclé
Panama
Double Pendant in the Form of Mythical Caymans
800/1200

Gold with plaster restoration of boar tusks
6 x 7 x 2.32 cm (2 3/8 x 2 3/4 x 7/8 in.)
Restricted gift of the Auxiliary Board, 1982.1484

When the Spaniards came to Central America during the 16th century, they recorded that the local caciques and nobility wore their wealth in the form of gold jewelry. Pieces such as this beautiful pendant not only signified status and power but also held great symbolic meaning.

The design consists of two caymans with fierce, gaping mouths turned in opposite directions. Like most animals portrayed on ancient American objects, these creatures are exaggerated to emphasize their symbolic power. Just as the cayman was master of tropical rivers, so too did rulers in the Coclé culture enjoy power over those in their domain.

To make this pendant, a Coclé artisan used the lost-wax method. In its original state, the long and curved tails of the pendant were composed of wild boars’ teeth. The gold surfaces of the heads are rough and jagged, emphasizing the ferocity of the wild beasts.