Masked Figure Pendant

Date: 11th–16th century

Geography: Panama

Culture: Veraguas

Medium: Gold

Dimensions: H. 4 1/4 x W. 4 3/4 x D. 1 in. (10.8 x 12.1 x 2.5cm)

Classification: Metal-Ornaments

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.206.777


Gold ornaments depicting animal-headed humans positioned between horizontal plaques have been found throughout Costa Rica and Panama. Although depictions featuring aspects of predatory animals, such as this figure with a crocodile mask, are common, the meaning of the figures and of the framing elements is not known. Perhaps the ability of such creatures to cause harm also engendered their capacity to inspire religious awe and respect. A minimally clothed, masked male figure stands with knees flexed, facing forward, arms replaced by large crescents, perhaps stylized wings. The crescent shape is reiterated at the sides of the head and by the flares at the ankles. The graphic quality of the repeated forms and the large flat shapes top and bottom anchor the figure. A single wide suspension loop is attached to the pendant at the back of the figure's neck.