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Plaque with Crocodile Deity

Arts of the Americas

On View: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
In Panama the Crocodile God was the principal deity for more than a thousand years and was most likely associated with strength, the sun and water, and fertility. The ruling elite probably wore prestige ornaments like this example in order to appropriate the power of crocodiles, fierce animals connected to the underworld since they float on water and drag their prey below to drown it. On this plaque the crocodilian being may be a creator god or a transformative image of the wearer. Smaller crocodiles surround the central figure, and the triangular border design simulates the animal’s protective ridge-like scales. The small holes around the border were probably used to attach the ornament to clothing.

En Panamá el Dios Cocodrilo fue la deidad principal por más de mil años y estaba probablemente asociado con la fortaleza, el sol y el agua, y la fertilidad. La élite gobernante posiblemente utilizaba ornamentos prestigiosos como éste para apropiarse del poder de los cocodrilos, fieros animales conectados al inframundo, ya que pueden flotar en el agua y arrastrar a su presa bajo ella para ahogarla. En esta placa el Ser Cocodrilo puede ser un dios creador o una imagen de transformación del usuario. Cocodrilos más pequeños rodean a la figura central, y el diseño triangular del borde simula las escamas sesgadas protectoras del animal. Los pequeños agujeros alrededor del borde eran usados posiblemente para asegurar el ornamento a la ropa.
DATES ca. 700-900
DIMENSIONS 8 1/2 x 9 in. (21.6 x 22.9 cm) mount (Support board prepared in 2012): 10 1/2 x 11 x 1 1/4 in. (26.7 x 27.9 x 3.2 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
CREDIT LINE Museum Expedition 1931, Museum Collection Fund
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CAPTION Coclé. Plaque with Crocodile Deity, ca. 700-900. Gold, 8 1/2 x 9 in. (21.6 x 22.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1931, Museum Collection Fund, 33.448.12. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 33.448.12_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 33.448.12_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Plaque of hammered gold with an embossed anthropomorphic reptilian figure representing the Crocodile God. Similar figures also appear on painted pottery and cast goldwork. The six pierced holes indicate that it was probably attached to a garment. Condition: good; there are small tears along the edges and in the interior, but all are stable. The six pierced holes have jagged edges and there are concentrated burnishing marks in the repoussé.
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