Ornamented Tweezer


Not on view

This tweezerlike ornament is embellished on the front and back with two superimposed grinning faces whose prominent sets of teeth seem skeletal, but whose fleshy noses do not. The faces end in swirls along the edges of the object. Sometimes called brazeletes in Spanish, such ornaments may have been worn suspended from a cord tied around the upper arm. Although seemingly a curious form of decoration to modern viewers, tweezerlike ornaments were a common symbol of power and authority throughout the western reaches of the ancient Americas.

Along with ear ornaments, headdress diadems, and pectorals, these tweezerlike objects formed part of the regalia that Yotoco leaders wore in life before they accompanied them in death. Yotoco (100 B.C.–A.D. 800) was the second of three cultures identified archaeologically in the Cauca Valley of southwest Colombia. Along with the earlier Ilama, and the later Sonso, these three societies are known collectively as the Calima culture.

Master metalsmiths would create this type of ornament by hammering gold into a sheet, and then cutting it into the desired shape. The metalsmith would then add details by working the sheet from the reverse using a bone or metal tool over a soft material such as wood or pitch.

Jones, Julie, ed., The Art of Precolumbian Gold. The Jan Mitchell Collection (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1985), fig. 57.

Further Reading
Pérez de Barradas, José. Orfebrería Prehispánica de Colombia Estilo Calima. Bogotá, Colombia: Banco de la República, 1954.

Bray, Warwick. 2005. “Craftsmen and Farmers: The Archaeology of the Yotoco Period.” In Calima and Malagana: Art and Archaeology in Southwestern Colombia, edited by Marianne Cardale de Schrimpff, pp. 98−139. Bogotá: Pro Calima Foundation.

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 no. 83.5, pp. 182–183.

Uribe Villegas, María Alicia, and Marcos Martiñon-Torres, “Metallurgy and Prestige in Ancient Colombia,” in Golden Kingdoms: Luxury Arts in the Ancient Americas, Joanne Pillsbury, Timothy Potts, and Kim N. Richter, eds., pp. 44-53. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2017.

Ornamented Tweezer, Hammered gold, Calima-Yotoco

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