Unknown Artist, Breastplate with Frontal Figure, Parita style (Parita region, Azuero Peninsula, Central Panama) about A.D. 1150–1400. Gold alloy; 5.25 inches.
Denver Art Museum: Department acquisition funds, 1965.196.
About A.D. 1150–1400
Central Panama, Azuero Peninsula
Department acquisition funds, 1965.196
Hammered gold breastplates from central Panama are decorated with intricate embossed images of supernatural beings with claws, bared teeth, and serpentine appendages. Closely similar beings, often in dynamic poses, are painted on polychrome pottery from the same region. Long known collectively as the Crocodile God, such creatures actually combine traits from many creatures, including iguanas, sharks, and even deer.
The highest ranking members of ancient Panamanian society were buried with numerous human attendants and lavish offerings. These included polychrome pottery and gold ornaments such as helmets, breastplates, wrist guards, pendants, and beaded necklaces. Other valuable materials placed in graves include turtle carapaces, stingray spines, whale teeth, shark teeth, boar tusks, carved bone, agate, quartz, emerald, and serpentine.
- “Stampede: Animals in Art” — Denver Art Museum, 9/10/2017