Funerary mask

Gold funerary masks immortalized the faces of Indian Chiefs who in this form would continue to care for the community.

The Spirit of Ancient Colombian Gold

November 9, 2005 - April 9, 2006


Pectoral representing human image of the sun father, Serankua.

The National Museum of Natural History presents a spectacular exhibit of over 280 Colombian gold items from the Museo del Oro in Colombia. This represents the first time such a large collection of Colombian gold will come to the Washington, D.C. area. The selection ranges from tiny votive figures and decorative nose rings to the full regalia worn by the elite, drawing from diverse regional and cultural traditions between 2500 B.P. to 500 B.P. Gold was believed to be a product of the Sun, the supreme procreator, and as such had special associations with fertility and power. For the people of Colombia, the value of gold lay in the symbolic and transformative properties associated with its color, aura, and malleability. The show includes a number of pieces in tumbaga, an alloy of gold and copper, which was highly valued by many cultures for its rarity and durability.

Objects are on loan from the Museo del Oro in Colombia.

This exhibition is made possible through collaboration with The Embassy of the Republic of Colombia and the generous support of:

Location: 1st Floor, West Wing

Films & Lectures

Friday, February 10, Illustrated lecture
Lost Amazon: The Photographic Journey of Richard Evans Schultes.
Lecture and book signing with ethnobotanist, explorer and author Dr. Wade Davis-a Schultes student and protégé. In 1941, Harvard professor Richard Evans Schultes embarked on a 12-year journey into the Amazon region of Northwest Colombia, mapping uncharted rivers, living among two dozen Indian tribes, and collecting some 30,000 botanical specimens. Davis selected the best of his mentor's photography and provides insight into the science and the people of the Colombian Amazon. Baird, noon.

Saturday, February 18, Film
Secrets of the Choco (1995, 52 min.)
The Choco in Colombia, one of the planet's largest relatively unspoiled rainforests, hugs the Pacific Coast to the West and rises to the Andes in the East. The Choco hides thousands of undiscovered plants and animals. Choco's future and the lives of the blacks and Indians who live along the banks of its maze of rivers are threatened by development. Travel on an old steamboat with six experts on tropical ecology and sustainable development as they debate the region's future. Baird, 2 pm.


Stylized figure
Figure in a stylized anthropomorphic female form, 1100 B.P.

Teacher's Guide

A bilingual teacher's guide to the exhibit is now available in PDF format.


The bilingual website of the Museo del Oro