Ecuador or Colombia; Tolita/Tumaco
H. 9 in. (22.9 cm)
Jan Mitchell and Sons Collection, Gift of Jan Mitchell, 1995 (1995.427)
Three-dimensional human figures in gold are not common among the many types of Precolumbian gold objects known today from northern South America. This figure, which is hollow and made of thin, hammered gold sheet, is one of a handful of extremely delicate works of this kind that have managed to survive for some 2,000 years. This example is made of multiple elements, some of which were wired together; other joins are more sophisticated and less visible. The elongated head, a characteristic shape that appears on ceramic figures of the same period, is missing its cap and ear ornaments. Also missing are the objects the figure held in its hands. The apparent belligerence of the open-armed stance has led some observers to interpret the figure as a warrior who once carried spears or spear-throwers in its clenched fists. The elegance of the figure's ornaments implies that it would have been dressed in clothing appropriate to its status.
The Tolita/Tumaco area, from which this figure is said to come, crosses the border of modern-day Ecuador and Colombia along the Pacific coast.