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Ornament from Sitio Conte: Small Plaque

Ornament from Sitio Conte: Small Plaque

c. 400-500

Hammered gold

Overall: 9.3 x 10 cm (3 11/16 x 3 15/16 in.)

The Norweb Collection 1951.155

Fun Fact

Feline teeth add ferocity to a gold human face plaque from a Central American burial.

Description

Harvard archaeologists excavated the eight ornaments from several burials at Sitio Conte, a cemetery famous for its lavish graves of powerful chieftains. The young man buried in Grave 26 was such a chief. His status was stunningly memorialized by 21 human companions and 475 objects, many of them personal ornaments made of gold, including the small plaque shown here. The creature on the chest plaque, found close to the chief’s body, has reptile claws and perhaps the head crest of an iguana. Its meaning is unknown but perhaps, as in later periods, reptilian imagery and the warm gleam of gold linked rulers with the sun’s creative force.

See also
Department: 
Art of the Americas
Type of artwork: 
Metalwork
Medium: 
Hammered gold
Credit line: 
The Norweb Collection

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