Cast gold lime-flask of a seated female

Quimbaya, AD 600-1100
From Colombia

The cast gold lime-flasks made by the Quimbaya culture are wonderful examples of the astonishing virtuosity achieved by pre-Columbian artisans.

Various types of Quimbaya gold artefacts were adorned with human figures, which were sometimes portrayed wearing lime-flasks hanging from their neck. The flasks held lime obtained from burning and grinding seashells. The alkaline lime was chewed with coca leaves to release their active stimulant and enhance clear, contemplative thinking. Even today coca is used to intercede with the ancestors among several people of Colombia, such as the Kogi. The sense of inner concentration conveyed by the figures depicted on the flasks is consistent with this ritual use. The spiral motifs may allude to sprouting vegetation and suggest that the flasks were used in fertility rites to invoke ancestral sources of power and ensure the seasonal regeneration of plants and fruits essential to sustain human life.

This lime-flask was cast by the lost-wax method.

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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)

J. Jones (ed.), Art of Pre-Columbian gold, the, London, Weidenfeld and Nicholson (, 1985)


Height: 14.500 cm

Museum number

AOA 1940.Am11.2


Purchased through the National Art Collections Fund


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