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Coclé, Period V or VI
700-1000 CE
80.01 cm (31 1/2 in.)

On view


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This necklace was found encircling a man's neck projecting equally on all sides in the same position as shown in this picture. The finding was made in the 1950’s, by a team of archaeologists from the Peabody Museum of Harvard University. The pre-Columbian cemetery site was located one hundred to two hundred yards above the high water mark of Venado Beach, a shore line facing the Pacific Ocean in the southwestern corner of the Panama Canal Zone.

This piece was made with 54 long conch shell beads with sizes ranging from 2 3/8 to 4 3/8 inches. The beads were cut from the thickest part of the outer curve of shells and an adjacent part of the interior core. The cores were then grooved so that they suggest four rows of small beads. No other beads of this size and quality of craftsmanship have been reported yet.

The size, quality of manufacture, and rare presence of similar object in the archaeological record tell us about the high status of the person who wore it, even in the afterlife.

Benson, Elizabeth P. 1963 Handbook of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C., p. 53, cat. 304.

Bliss, Robert Woods 1957 Pre-Columbian Art: The Robert Woods Bliss Collection. Text and Critical Analyses by S. K. Lothrop, Joy Mahler and William F. Foshag. Phaidon, New York. p. 269, cat. 272, pl. CXIII.

Cooke, Richard 2004 Rich, Poor, Shaman, Child: Animals, Rank and Status in the "Gran Cocle" Culture Area of Pre-Columbian Panama. In Behaviour Behind Bones: The Zooarchaeology of Ritual, Religion, Status and Identity, Sharyn Jones O'Day, Wim van Neer and Anton Ervynck, eds., pp. 271-284. International Council for Archaeozoology. 9th Conference (2002: Durham England),, Peter Rowley-Conwy, Umberto Albarella and Keith Dobney, general editor. Oxbow, Oxford. p. 277, fig. 6c.

Saunders, Nicholas J. 2003 "Catching the Light": Technologies of Power and Enchantment in Pre-Columbian Goldworking. In Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia: A Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks, 9 and 10 October 1999, Jeffrey Quilter and John W. Hoopes, eds., pp. 15-47. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections, Washington, D.C. p. 33, fig. 8.

Saunders, Nicholas J. 2011 Shimmering Worlds: Brilliance, Power, and Gold in Pre-Columbian Pamama. In To Capture the Sun: Gold of Ancient Panama, Richard G. Cooke, John W. Hoopes, Jeffrey Quilter and Nicholas J. Saunders, eds., pp. 78-113. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa. p. 94.

Exhibition History
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, February 1954 to July 1962.

Acquisition History
Acquired from the Peabody Museum, Cambridge, MA, by Robert Woods Bliss, 1951.

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1951-1962.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.

Cocle | Necklaces