The twelve objects in this exhibition represent a single, recent acquisition that transforms the museum’s holdings of Pre-Columbian gold. The objects represent two cultural regions: the Central Andes (today mainly Peru) and the Isthmus Region (now Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia). Both are famous in the history of indigenous American metallurgy, a reputation that stems from the artistic refinement, technical ingenuity, and quantity of precious-metal objects they produced.
Ancient Americans used gold mainly for personal ornaments, although late pre-Hispanic Andean artists also created gold (or silver) vessels in notable quantities. Many of these objects carry complex imagery that had political and religious meanings suitable for the powerful rulers, chiefs, and other elites who used them. The material itself also had symbolic import. In the Isthmus Region, for instance, gold seems to have been associated with positive moral behavior as well as with the cosmic forces from which political power flowed, especially the sun.
After the exhibition closes, the objects will be installed in the permanent collection galleries devoted to the Pre-Columbian world.