Symbols, including this powerful shamanic ensign, reflected the inherited rank and position in these societies and were the very objects that inspired the first European explorers, when they saw these lavishly gold-bedecked inhabitants of today’s Costa Rica, to name this Central American territory: Costa Rica (the rich coast).
Created by employing the same ancient technique that the original, pre Columbian goldsmiths used – lost wax casting – fine cast gold amulets such as this object depicting an esteemed religio-political personage, were worn by personages of rank when these societies were flourishing mostly in the southern Pacific coast region of present-day Costa Rica.
Part of the power and allure of these unique jewelry gold pieces were their very purposeful use of gold’s reflecting surfaces to catch and reflect the glare of the sun. Double animals, or human figures – either in their anthropomorphic form, or transforming into certain animals – are oft repeated themes explored in these cast gold objects. In the past and surviving still in many Native groups’ stories in the Americas is the notion of ‘shape shifting’. Here we see the shaman – human – transforming into a ‘were-crocodile’. This may be by symbolic/religious means through the use of a mask, or by ritual and hallucigens (or both).