Cast gold pendant of a winged shaman

From Popayán, Colombia, AD 100-1500

The figure on this pendant combines human attributes with the outstretched wings of a bird. These elements allude to shamanic powers of flight. After careful ritual preparations, the shaman ingests powerful hallucinogens which release his soul and enables him to 'fly' into other dimensions of the cosmos. Under the influence of such substances, the shaman believes that he can transform himself into an animal or bird and assume its powers and attributes.

The Spanish chronicles and documents of the colonial period record the use of hallucinogenic drugs by the people inhabiting the northern Andes including Colombia.

This pendant was cast in tumbaga, an alloy of gold and copper, using the lost-wax technique.

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More information


C. McEwan (ed.), Precolumbian gold, technology, (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)

G. Reichel-Dolmatoff, Goldwork and shamanism: an ico, Medellín, Colombia, Editorial Colina (, 1988)

W. Bray, The gold of El Dorado, exh. cat. (London, Times Newspapers and Royal Academy of Arts, 1978)


Height: 7.700 cm

Museum number

AOA +5803


Gift of Sir A.W. Franks


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