Colombian gold fauna

November 16, 2010 • 4:51 am

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:


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 thoughts on “Colombian gold fauna

  1. 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.

      1. Oooh–I think you’re right! Thanks for the link:)) Did not know there was a species of bear in South America (and video, too!). I said dog because it reminds me of the stylized dog in Aztec and Mayan art.

  2. 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!

    1. 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.

  3. 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.

      1. 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.)

  4. 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 –
    As ever your posts have sparked me off!

      1. 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. 🙂

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

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

  5. 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.]

  6. 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?

    1. 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? 😮

  7. 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?

      1. 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.

Leave a Reply