Female Figure (tunjo)

Date: 10th–16th century

Geography: Colombia

Culture: Muisca

Medium: Gold

Dimensions: H. 7 3/4 x W. 1 1/8 x D. 1/8 in. (19.7 x 2.8 x 0.3cm)

Classification: Metal-Sculpture

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.206.1050


Muisca votive objects, called tunjos, were made in a variety of forms: animate, that is, human figures and animals, and inanimate–weapons, lime containers, and snuff tablets. Human images, always differentiated by sex, are the most common type of tunjo. Most are simple, flat plaques with a great deal of specific detail added onto the surface, as thin gold threads. The figures depict actual Muisca people and activities, for instance, mothers holding children, as on this example. Male figures carry weapons or chew coca. Quality of workmanship and realistic proportions were of less concern to tunjo makers than subject matter.

This tunjo depicts a female figure holding a smaller one, possibly a child, in one hand and a baton on the other. A long, multistrand necklace is on her chest and a prominent disk-shaped pectoral under her chin. Her small feet, worked as a series of fine gold threads, appear in the upper half of the tall plaque.

Tunjos were buried in groups or thrown into lakes. They occur only rarely in tombs.