Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Double Eagle Pendant

11th–16th century
H. 5 1/2 x W. 7 3/4 x D. 1 1/2 in. (14 x 19.7 x 3.8cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 357
Bird pendants were made for centuries in many styles and sizes in the area stretching from Costa Rica to north and central Colombia in the south. Today they are the best known works in gold from ancient America. They were first named aguilas (eagles) by Christopher Columbus, who noted them being worn by local people hung from their necks when he sailed along the Caribbean coast of Central America at the beginning of the sixteenth century. From the great variety of birds in the region and the different shapes of the beaks, wings, and claws depicted on the pendants, it is clear that various species are represented. Suggestions range from hummingbirds to raptors.

Although single bird pendants are most common, those with two or more birds exist in fair numbers. The twin birds on this pendant have long beaks and share a small bulging body, a pair of talons, wings, and a wide, spread out tail. The symbolic meaning of bird pendants in ancient times is not known in the absence of written records or other sources of information. In the mythology of the present-day Bribri of Costa Rica, the principal deity, called Sibo or Sibu (Creator of all things), takes the form of a kite or buzzard wearing a collar around its neck, as do the birds shown here. Bird pendants may have been intended to provide protection to the wearer. The doubling of the birds could have been meant to increase the protective power of the object.
[Allan Caplan, New York, until 1959]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1959, on permanent loan to the Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1959–1978

Jones, Julie, and Heidi King. "Gold of the Americas." The Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art vol. 59, no. 4 (Spring 2002), p. 77.

Related Objects

Double Eagle Pendant

Artist: Date: 11th–16th century
Accession Number: 1979.206.907
Date: 11th–16th century Medium: Gold Accession: 1979.206.907 On view in:Gallery 357

Double-Eagle Pendant

Artist: Date: 1st–5th century
Accession Number: 1979.206.538
Date: 1st–5th century Medium: Gold Accession: 1979.206.538 On view in:Gallery 357

Pair of Cuffs

Artist: Date: 14th–16th century
Accession Number: 2008.569.21a, b
Date: 14th–16th century Medium: Gold Accession: 2008.569.21a, b On view in:Gallery 357


Artist: Date: 11th–mid-16th century
Accession Number: 2002.322.1
Date: 11th–mid-16th century Medium: Gold Accession: 2002.322.1 On view in:Gallery 357

Pendant with Scenes from the Life of Christ and Two Saints

Artist: Reinhold Vasters (German, Erkelenz 1827–1909 Aachen) Date: ca. 1870–95 Medium: Verre eglomisé with enameled gold mounts and with a pendant pearl Accession: 1982.60.380 On view in:Gallery 542