Colombian gold fauna

Perhaps the most famous tourist site in Bogotá is the Museo del Oro—the Gold Museum. With more than 55,000 pieces, it’s the world’s largest collection of native American gold objects.

I went two days ago, but went a bit jaded, thinking, “How good can this really be?”  Well, it’s really good—fantastic, in fact—and I spent three hours wandering around and taking photographs. I could easily have stayed for a few more hours.

What I’d like to do in this post is simply show some of the animals, a small subset of all the objects on display (I may show some other stuff later). I don’t have dates for most of these, because they weren’t given, but these are all pre-Hispanic, with some going back three thousand years.  You can see a short video here.

Now, los animales.  First, a beautiful gold flying fish. (Click on all pictures to enlarge them.)

And what was described as a catfish:

A caiman:

Some frogs:

Insects:

Three beautiful birds (the first is dated):

A vulture:

Bats (hanging upside down):

A jaguar mask (jaguars were of immense symbolic importance in many Mesoamerican cultures):

And finally, some unidentified animals. Your guess is as good as mine:

37 Comments

  1. FlorianM
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Jerry, I love these shots!

  2. Gregory James
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Don’t you mean pre-Columbian gold fauna? Or perhaps pre-Columbian Columbian gold fauna?

    • cdc
      Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      The country is called Colombia, not Columbia. So Colombian gold fauna is fine.

      • Gregory James
        Posted November 16, 2010 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        Ah. So pre-Columbian Colombian gold fauna is what we are seeing.

  3. Posted November 16, 2010 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Don’t show this posting to Ben Bernanke.

  4. Posted November 16, 2010 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Lovely, lovely stuff, almost edible.

  5. Posted November 16, 2010 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Thanks for these pictures – they are amazing. The first bird is fantastical. Even allowing for artistic freedom, the form of that creature is difficult to dream up. The intriguing shape of the bill, the arrangement of claws and the spectacular head-ornamentation are out of the ordinary. With the other gold-sculptures being moderately faithful to reality, I wonder if this particular bird ever existed.

  6. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Very good photographs, considering the challenge of shooting gold objects on a gold background.

  7. Posted November 16, 2010 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Wow–the jaguar mask is just spectacular. The bats are my favorite, though (hanging upside down!). The animal on the right in the last photo–maybe a dog? Thank you! Post more, please!

  8. Dominic
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Beautiful. All that glisters… IS gold!

    I wondered what everyone thinks of the joint Natural History Museum in London/Paraguayan planned expedition to the Chaco in Paraguay to search for plants & wildlife being delayed or possibly cancelled?
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11762531
    Do your Colombian hosts have strong opinions for example?

  9. Kevin
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    For the last shot, I’m thinking cat and dog…

    After the disappearance of the horse from the Americas and before they were reintroduced by the Spanish, the dog was the work animal for the Plains people further north.

    Cats catch mice and other vermin that eat grain stores.

    Cat and dog. Happily domesticated.

    Either that or a squirrel, about to be chased by the dog.

    Or possibly a crocoduck. Darwin was WRONG!

    • Dominic
      Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Andean mountain cat? Leopardus jacobitus…? It has the big tail, albeit pointed not rounded…

      It sort of depends on where the artefacts were from – which culture, which environment – lowland/mountain etc.

    • Posted November 16, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      The one on the right, tapir?

  10. daveau
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    490 d.C.? Must be Spanish. Enlightenment please.

    Man, those are some beautiful artifacts.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      d.C. = “after Christ” in Spanish.

      • daveau
        Posted November 16, 2010 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        Merci.

  11. Paul W.
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    What do you mean by “Bats (hanging upside down)”.

    They look like bats in flight, with wings spread, rather than bats hanging by their feet, with wings folded up, so they seem right side up to me.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      All I can say is that the guide told me they were upside down.

    • Dominic
      Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      The guide was surely right – the things at the top are feet, I would say…?

    • Dominic
      Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Last comment – here’s a ‘new’ Ecuadorean bat –
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_9185000/9185699.stm
      …sadly a bit dead.

      • Posted November 16, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        It’s so frustrating and sad–it seems that practically every time a new species is discovered, it inevitably lives in an area being rapidly destroyed for agriculture…
        (the little golden bats *are* upside down–you’re right, the little things at top are the feet.)

  12. Dominic
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I found an interesting web page on South American ‘vultures’ or condors – I had no idea that they are not closely related to Old World vultures but are an example of convergence. There is a photo of one sitting with its wings open exactly like the golden bird in your photo –
    http://creagrus.home.montereybay.com/vultures.html
    As ever your posts have sparked me off!

    • Posted November 16, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      Your links are cool–thanks!

      • Dominic
        Posted November 17, 2010 at 4:10 am | Permalink

        It’s because I am a nerdy librarian… I always try to back up what I say or speculate on if it is more than opinion. 🙂

  13. littlejohn
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    These are clearly models of alien flying machines. Chariots of the clods.

    • Kevin
      Posted November 16, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      …and the “insects” are clearly aliens…with their antennae sticking out.

      Four limbs, not six. Dead give-away for aliens.

  14. Posted November 16, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    WOW!

    Involuntary audible gasp as I scrolled down the main page and caught sight of the first of these; sustained gasp state of mind as I scrolled through the rest. Wow.

    [Finally starts bucket list.]

  15. Hempenstein
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    2-3K yrs is a long time to manage to escape being melted by invaders of the Neandertal bent. Was there any indication that these were recovered from excavations, or have they somehow managed to be appreciated on their artistic merit all this time?

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 16, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Um, what is #the Neandertal bent”?

      Neanderthals are believed to have enjoyed making art, they likely didn’t know how to work metal and they sure died longer ago than 3 ka and on other continent that they never left.

      Or are you anthropomorphizing on a biology blog? 😮

  16. Angela
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    One of the last ones looks like a mudkip. Which looks like a one of these:
    http://images.icanhascheezburger.com/completestore/2009/4/17/128844994484340295.jpg

    • Posted November 16, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      Oh–is that what Mizugoro is called in English? Didn’t realize he had a different name.

  17. Jason
    Posted November 16, 2010 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Bottom picture:

    Left = Squirrel
    Right = Dog

    (these are just guesses)

  18. MadScientist
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    One of the unidentified animals looks like a stylized coyote. I was thinking the other might be a bear – are there bears that far south?

    • Dominic
      Posted November 17, 2010 at 4:14 am | Permalink

      Spectacled bear… see 7. above – possibly. Or Tapir – see 9.

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted November 17, 2010 at 4:44 am | Permalink

        The spectacled bear has the adorable Spanish name of
        “Osos de Anteojos” (Bear with Glasses). I think the term “anteojos” for glasses is become archaic, though.


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