Date: 1st–5th century
Culture: Initial Style
Dimensions: H. 4 3/8 x W. 6 1/4 x D. 1 1/8 in. (11.1 x 15.9 x 2.8cm)
Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number: 1979.206.538
Gold eagle pendants were a favored form of personal ornament in ancient Central America. Made for more than a thousand years (if estimates of their initial appearance in the region are accurate), eagle pendants were still being worn by local inhabitants of the Caribbean coast at the turn of the sixteenth century when European explorers first encountered them. Consequently, gold pendants are known in a wide array of styles, sizes, techniques, and details. Some, like the example here, have dual or double aspects; some are barely an inch high and may have been made for children, while others would fully adorn a large male chest. Aspects of many different birds must have gone into the natural and artistic matrix that formed the pendants, although specialists today do not agree on which birds those might be. One theory holds that the pendants represent birds of prey, and that they functioned as guardian emblems combining the protective power of gold with the aggressive qualities of raptors.