The crocodile and its relatives the caiman and alligator, which were not always differentiated, are common images in Pre-Columbian arts and are represented in the Coclé culture in various media. As with much Pre-Columbian imagery, this is not a simple, naturalistic depiction. The face, for example, appears human because it is parallel to the body, not at right angles to it, as a real crocodile’s would be. Although we do not know the crocodile’s specific significance for Coclé culture, its ferocious nature makes it a powerful symbol that may have reflected the aggressiveness of the society. This pendant was one of many objects found in graves at Sitio Conte, the major site in Coclé.
Coclé culture, Sitio Conte, Panama
H. 6 ¼ in. (15.9 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 79.6.1