Pre-Columbian Tairona Gold Labret with Obsidian Backing – Colombia Ca. 800 to 1500 AD
A fine example of the delicacy and refinement of the Tairona people’s gold work. A small lip plug ornament in the form of a snarly toothed dragon with rowed loops as the mane, upturned snout and extended, flat nose curls. A dangling sequin suspends from beneath, but has become separated and is missing one pincer attachment.
The original T shaped attachment backing is of ground obsidian. Overall excellent condition, with exception of the sequin.
Labrets such as this were fitted into a hole beneath the lower lip of an elite member of the society. Tairona goldsmiths excelled in casting using the lost-wax process and in the fashioning of added ornaments that were incorporated into larger pieces, such as the small ring at the bottom of the head. The labret clearly depicts a creature, but exactly which is uncertain. It has been suggested that it may be a stylized caiman or crocodile, but that identification is not conclusive.
Provenance: Ex. collection of Maurice Shapiro, NYC., acquired 1960s – 1970s, inherited by his sister.
Entire piece dimensions: L 5 cm X W 3.6 cm X H 4.5 cm
Gold piece dimensions: L 3.5 cm X W 1.7 cm X H 4.6 cm
8 grams total gold only weight.
There is a very similar example in the Metropolitan Museum of New York. Accession Number:1974.271.62
1.97 × 1.26 × 1.77 in