Pendant Gold A.D. 350 El Banco, Magdalena 7,5 x 12,2 cm

Zenú: People and Gold on the Caribbean Plains

From 200 B.C. onwards, agricultural chieftainships built a canal system that was to control floodwater on the hot Caribbean plains for the next 1,300 years. The web or weave metaphor was present in the drainage channel network, fishing nets, pottery, and the goldwork that was made of alloys rich in gold. Water birds, alligators, fish, feline figures and deer were both sources of food and essential elements of their symbolic thought.

The deceased were buried with clay figures of women and covered with tumuli on which trees were planted, and bells were hung from the branches of these trees. The roundness of the tumuli and breastplates signified gestation and rebirth.

Between 1100 A.D. and the Conquest, the Zenúes retreated to the high grasslands and the Sinú valley, while related groups occupied the Serranía de San Jacinto and the banks of the Magdalena. The goldsmiths of the Serranía de San Jacinto made objects for mass use out of alloys that were rich in copper: ear rings, pendants with richly-attired persons, and amphibian-men.


Zenú and the Gold Museum Exhibition

The Zenú Tradition

A Water Control System

The Weave and Representing the Universe

Technology and Scenes from Everyday Life