Double-Bat-Head Figure Pendant

Coclé (Parita)

Not on view

Two mirrored beings form the central part of this gold-and-greenstone pendant, which would have been worn by a ruler in central Panama in the centuries before European arrival. The figures hold large paddle-like clubs or other objects in their outer, humanlike hands and adorn their cylindrical torsos with representations of beaded collars. The individuals feature identical zoomorphic heads or masks, the upturned noses of which recall tropical bats endemic to the Isthmus. The bulging eyes, double-spiraled ears, and toothed mouth add a mythological dimension to the beings’ faces. The goldworker cast the upper portion of the pendant in gold-copper alloy using the lost-wax process and then likely enriched the surface with depletion gilding before polishing.

The lower portion of the being’s bodies is composed of carved and polished greenstone in the form of a curving, fang-shaped appendage. The shape recalls the large teeth of the sperm whale (Physeter microcephalus), which have been found sculpted in the round with similar zoomorphic imagery in this region of Panama. Greenstone was an important luxury material in ancient Mesoamerica and Central America, and many examples of fine greenstone regalia have been recovered from Panama.

This pendant reportedly comes from a series of rich graves excavated in the early 1960s in the Pacific region around Parita Bay, Panama. The gold works associated with the Parita assemblage feature complex representations of single and double-figure pendants similar to this example. Such rich grave goods are known from scientific excavations at the nearby Sitio Conte and El Caño, where important political leaders were buried with gold pendants, plaques, greenstone-and-gold ear ornaments, and sacrificed attendants.


Additional Reading:

Bray, Warwick

2013. Gold Jewelry from the "Parita Treasure" in the Denver Art Museum. In Young-Sanchez, Margaret, ed. Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology: Essays in Honor of Frederick R. Mayer: papers from the 2002 & 2007 Mayer Center Symposia at the Denver Art Museum., pp. 83-98. Denver: Denver Art Museum.

Double-Bat-Head Figure Pendant, Gold, greenstone, Coclé (Parita)

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