April 23, 2017

Pre-Columbian Gold Museum

 San Jose has a handful of very nice museums, one of which is dedicated entirely to gold artifacts and crafting techniques of the people who lived in the country prior to the arrival of Columbus. Since all the pieces on display are small and priceless, the museum is sensibly built in a giant vault. The same area also had a great display on the history of money in Costa Rica, but doesn't photograph as well since its all either text or notes on display.
 One thing I found very fascinating about all the native art we saw in Costa Rica is just how different a style everything was. This should not really be any surprise given the artists had a completely different culture and understanding from my own, but all their artwork has a striking and alien quality to it. These artisans used the "lost wax method" where they would carve their piece out of wax, surround it in clay, then melt out the wax and use the impression it left behind to cast their piece. Given the detail of all the pieces and the difficulty (so I read) of working in molten gold, the final results are still stunning hundreds of years later.
 Early indigenous people were fascinated by jaguars, vultures, crocodiles, frogs, and a variety of imaginary gods and creatures, and this was clearly reflected in their art. My inner Englishman was particularly taken with this golden shrimp which reminded me of lobstering off the Northumberland coast.

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