Cultural Context: Late Diquis style.
Origin: Greater Chiriqui - Diquis Sub-region (Costa Rica, Central America)
Technique: Lost wax, Polished, False filigree, Laminated
Dimensions: Height = 5.8 cm; Width = 6.4 cm; Thickness = 1.6 cm; Weight = 57.85 g
Inventory no.: 00672
Gold pendant depicting a male figure with zoomorphic features. It carries a human leg in its jaws and holds in its hands two rods topped with stylised spiral crocodile heads. From the rods hangs a cord that runs through the figure’s genitals. Four stylised crocodile heads emerge from the head and feet. The figure is framed at the top and bottom by two curved metal strips.
The peak of pre-Hispanic gold work in Costa Rica took place in the late societies (700-1550 AD) that developed in the so-called Diquis sub-region, which, together with northwestern Panama, today make up the archaeological sub-area of Greater Chiriquí. The products of this region were characterised by a wide iconographic repertoire; animal figures stand out, as do figures that mix animal and human attributes, as in this example. As Fernández Esquivel (1998) points out, in both cases, we are dealing with representations with significant symbolic content that expressed the union of the real and mythical worlds. Animals have always occupied a significant place in the sacred realm and in magical-religious symbolism on the basis of their superhuman abilities to fly and to survive under water. The frequent representation of birds, reptiles and characters exhibiting their attributes alluded to the concept of shamanic transformation, in which the shaman would use these animals as intermediaries to cross the different planes of the cosmos in mythical flight. This artefact also depicts a type of auto-sacrifice practised by the shaman.