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Metals - Pendants


Eagle Pendants

Origin I Characteristics I Urgency of the Situation I Legislation I Bibliography

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

Click on the photo to see caption and an enlarged version

gold, 7.8 x 5.7 cm
gold, 7 x 8.6 cm
gold, 4.9 x 4.7 cm
  © Museo Nacional de Costa Rica © Dirección Nacional del Patrimonio Histórico © Museo Nacional de Costa Rica


Costa Rica and Panama.


These pendants of birds with extended wings are known as "eagles" or "little eagles". They are mostly found in areas with silver deposits such as southern Costa Rica and northern Panama's Gran Chiriquí region. They have also been found in smaller quantities in other regions of Costa Rica.
Eagle pendants are usually issued from funeral sites and they range in date from 400 to 1550 AD.
They are made of gold and a gold and copper alloy known as tumbaga, which accounts for the green oxidation spots and rust damage displayed by some of the pieces. They have been crafted using lost wax casting and hammering techniques. They feature false filigree decorations (gold wire is not twisted and soldered to the surface but laid in the mould), and embossed dots and lines. They measure between 2 and 15 cm in height and their weight varies according to their size and the material they are made of, fluctuating between 0.5 and 250 grams.
The eagles' body is slightly bulky with tiny claws, extended wings and a triangle-shaped tail resembling flat leaves. The head has a curved beak and a crest. The eagle's features are depicted with varying degrees of detail.
Other small pendants made from the same material are in the shape of human beings with a crocodile mask or head, nude human beings wearing spiral ear spools, animals such as frogs, insects or felines with a long raised tail, circular gold leaves, bells and necklace beads.


--Urgency of the Situation  

Only a few of these objects have been found through archaeological research. Most of those belonging to museum collections were acquired between the fifties and seventies through illegal activities.
Objects made of gold are highly valued due to the material they are made of and what they represent, which places funeral sites in southern Costa Rica at great risk.
These objects can be found as elements in modern necklaces or used as pendants. Replicas closely resembling the originals have been made which can be a source of confusion. In February 2003, most of the gold and silversmith collection of the Museo Antropologico Reina Torres de Arauz in Panama City was stolen. The pieces, dating from 400 to 1500 AD are representative of the regions of the Panama Isthmus. Although most of the stolen objects were recovered in May 2003, some of them, such as the pendant in the shape of an eagle illustrated here, are still missing.


--Legislation Protecting these Objects  

See Costa Rica and Panama

  • Calvo Mora, Marlin; Bonilla, Leidy & Sánchez, Julio. Gold, Jade, Forest: Costa Rica. University of Washington Press, 1995.
  • Corrales, Francisco. Surgimiento y desarrollo de la sociedad compleja en la Costa Rica Precolombina. In: Exhibición Oro y Jade: Emblemas de poder en Costa Rica. Bogotá, 1999.
  • Fernández, Patricia. Metalurgia del Oro en la América Prehispánica. In: El Libro de la Minería del Oro en Iberoamérica. Andalucía, Gráficas Monterreina S.A., 2001.




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October 2003