Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Cartagena - Museo del Oro Zenú

Cartagena de Indias on the Caribbean coast was my first destination. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cartagena's walled city is an architectural delight, bathed in colour and light. Founded by Pedro de Heredia in 1533, the city served as Colonial Spain's storage point for treasure, which was collected from the Americas before being shipped to Spain.

First stop was the Museo del Oro Zenú, the Cartagena branch of the Gold Museum in Bogotá. Specialising in gold artifacts from the Caribbean coast of Colombia and the coastal plains, the well-displayed pieces are primarily from the Zenú people and are all between 500 to 2000 years old.

Detail of painting by Francis Martin featuring Filigree earring, Zenú tradition. 200 B.C.-1600 A.D.

Fabrics and the weave played an essential role in the daily and religious life of the Zenúes, the weaving and basketwork industries influencing pottery and metalwork styles. Metalsmiths used the cast filigree technique to make earrings, by weaving or imitating fabrics and plaits in wax threads, which they transformed into metal. They lived amidst a maze of streams, rivers and marshes, and wove together a waterway system made up of an intricate network of canals.

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