International studio — 81.1925

Page: 279
DOI issue: DOI article: DOI Page: Citation link: 
https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/international_studio81/0279
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CHIBCHA BEATEN GOLD DRESS ORNAMENT FROM THE SACRED LAKE AT QUATAVITA

means of a rod of wax coated with clay. The
whole thing then was fired, the melted wax allowed
to escape and the gold poured into the resulting
mold. It was necessary to break the mold to get
the object and this accounts for the fact that no
molds of any kind have ever been found in the
whole region. By this method it was possible to
cast the objects which have the appearance of
fine wire or filigree work. Many objects which
show intricate, delicate work and appear to be
soldered together are in reality cast.

"After casting the objects were carefully pol-
ished on the exposed side. Men, anthropomorphs,
monkeys and birds were constructed to present
the frontal aspect to view while quadrupeds, rep-
tiles, fishes and crustaceans present the dorsal
view. A figure after casting was often modified
by hammering as in the case of the flat feet of
frogs and the wings of birds. Small objects were
sometimes cast solid but all the larger ones were
cast hollow with an opening at the back.

"Important surfaces are burnished carefully.
A specimen which contains a large amount of
alloy may present a polished film on the surface
of almost pure gold. This result is supposed to
have been obtained by coating the object with
the acid juices of a certain plant and then firing
it. The gold is thus brought to the surface in a
thin film. The question of gilding is an interesting
one. The film of gold is often so thin it resembles
electro-plating. Another method that may have
been used was to coat the model with gold before
it was put into the mold. When the mold was
filled the gold would adhere to the surface of the

object and after burnishing it would have the
appearance of solid gold. The workers were
skilful also in applying the film to wooden objects,
beads and throwing sticks being notable examples
of their proficiency.

"Gold was used for the most part as a useful
metal, for decoration and ornament, but it was
often associated with religious thought. According
to the Inca belief, an egg of copper fell from
heaven from which sprang the first Indians; after
a time an egg of silver fell from which sprang the
nobility; and after a longer period an egg of gold
fell from which issued the Inca. Among the
Chocos of Colombia an important idol of gold was
worshipped and slaves were sacrificed to it at
certain seasons of the year. The idol represented
a woman, who was once human and gave birth to
a child who became the creator. She was deified
after death, becoming mistress of thunder and
lightning. The priests performed ceremonies be-
fore her to procure sunshine and rain when desired.
Gods with human attributes are common every-
where and it may be supposed that many of the
Central American anthropomorphs wrere wor-
shipped as gods—the alligator god, the bird god
and the crab god. Here the human attributes do
not always constitute one of the elements in the
composite gold image. An alligator body may
have a bird's head. Evidently animal forms
played an important part in the native mythology
and religion."

Illustrations by courtesy of the Museum oj the University
oj Pennsylvania

JULY I925

two seventy-nine
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