Warrior with Trophy Head

Chiriquí, Aguas Buenas Phase

Not on view

A tradition of figural sculpture that emphasized militarism and warriors is thought to have developed in Costa Rica out of an increased competition for resources among a growing population. Presented in a rigid posture atop a pedestal base, this helmeted warrior holds a trophy head in his right hand and a short ax in his left. Elbows to his side and forearms thrust forward, he seems to be presenting them to the viewer, perhaps in tribute, perhaps as a warning. The figure wears a belt with panels above each hip. His conical helmet is of a type commonly seen in images of elite warriors in ancient Central America and Colombia. He wears a pendant in the shape of four curly-tailed animals lined up side-by-side, similar to gold ornaments known from the region (see MMA 66.196.36). There is evidence that gold was considered a protective substance in Precolumbian Central America and that warriors wore their gold ornaments into battle.

Further reading

Hoopes, John. “Magical Substances in the Land Between the Seas: Luxury Arts in Northern South America and Central America,” in Golden Kingdoms: Luxury Arts in the Ancient Americas, Joanne Pillsbury, Timothy Potts, and Kim N. Richter, eds. (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2017), pp. 54-65.

Pillsbury, Joanne, Timothy Potts, and Kim N. Richter, eds. Golden Kingdoms: Luxury Arts in the Ancient Americas. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2017. See especially cat. no. 103, p. 195.

Quintanilla, Ifigenia. “Una escultura de la Gran Chiriquí en Nueva York y su confusa identidad.” Drama de las Esferas. https://ifigeniaquintanilla.com/2013/05/24/una-escultura-de-la-gran -chiriqui-en-nueva-york-y-su-confusa-identidad.

#1613. Warrior with Trophy Head

Warrior with Trophy Head, Volcanic stone, Chiriquí, Aguas Buenas Phase

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.