Harvard archaeologists excavated this pectoral from Grave 26 at Sitio Conte, a cemetery famous for its lavish graves of powerful chieftains. The young man buried in the grave was such a chief. His status was stunningly memorialized by 21 human companions and 475 objects, many of them personal gold ornaments. The creature on the pectoral, which was found close to the chief's body, has reptile claws and a head crest, possibly an iguana's. Its meaning is unknown but perhaps, as in later periods, reptilian imagery and the warm gleam of gold linked rulers with the sun's creative force. The ornament came to the museum when Harvard deaccessioned it.
Susan E. Bergh, Ph.D., Associate Curator, Art of the Ancient Americas, 2002