Breastplate Gold A.D. 200 - A.D. 900 Río Palomino, Santa Marta, Magdalena 13,8 cm

Tairona: People and Gold on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

The north western part of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta was inhabited by groups of goldsmiths, artisans and builders during the Nahuange and Tairona periods. Nahuange goldwork was named after the bay of the same name, where a tomb was excavated in 1922. Typically it features hammered nose rings and breastplates in copper and gold alloys. People in the Nahuange period lived from fishing and agriculture in villages near the sea, from 200 A.D. onwards.

In the Tairona period, between 900 A.D. and 1600 A.D., the mountains were also settled and cities linked together by paths were built on stone foundations. The chronicler Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo wrote in 1514 that the indians of Santa Marta "had gold jewellery, feathered crests and blankets with many pictures, and on these many cornelian stones, emeralds, jaspers and others". In addition to serving as ornaments, masks were used to transform people into bat-men, the most emblematic motif of the Tairona period. A bird in flight was a symbol of power that was shared with other Chibcha-speaking groups.


Tairona and the Gold Museum Exhibition

Territory and Subsistence

Paradise Found and Lost

A Powerful Shaman Elite