This is the front and back of a t-shirt that was bought in Colombia. Stylistically to my naive layman eyes, they both look consistent with a modern riff on Muisca or Tairona art. Are they identifiable entities in known pre-Columbian mythology? Or are they tourist trap nonsense? (even so, one would think it might have been easier to copy a pre-existing image):



  • 2
    The first image is pretty similar to this one: journals.openedition.org/nuevomundo/docannexe/image/69281/… The being has the same two animal tails, the arms are in similar positions, and there's a certain similarity in the headdress. I extracted this image from an article whose author analyzes the characteristics of animals present in representations of the gods on middle horizon and later pre-hispanic painted funerary textiles from the peruvian coast [1] I'll put the reference in another comment... Commented May 30, 2020 at 4:09
  • 1
    Reference: [1] KARADIMAS, Dimitri. Monkeys, Wasps and Gods: graphic perspectives on middle horizon and later pre-hispanic painted funerary textiles from the peruvian coast. Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos, [s.l.], jul. 2016. Available in: doi.org/10.4000/nuevomundo.69281. Commented May 30, 2020 at 4:10

1 Answer 1


These are, conclusively, Coclé, but the culture appears to be very similar to Tairona.

It appears that these images are near-perfect replicas of the imagery on two Gran Coclé plaques. What appears to be the same entity as the first image is identified here as a "sun deity" and here as a "crocodile god". Cooke and Bray (ref 1) identify this as a "saurian-human figure", and note that Helms (ref 2) makes a strong case that the animals are iguanas. I have unfortunately not been able to find a copy of that paper.

In any case, the two specific images are conclusively from artifacts found at sitio Conte, which are currently at Penn Museum: the saurian-human plaque and the bird figures plaque. saurian plaque bird plaque

In researching this, I was surprised how similar Tairona art was to precolumbian Panamanian artefacts. Compare, for example these Tairona "twins" (photo: WERNER FORMAN/GTRES, from this National Geographic article): Tairona twins

vs these from the other end of Panama (from Cooke, Bray, ibid., p. 38): Chiriqui twins


  1. Cooke, Richard G. and Bray, Warwick. "The Goldwork of Panama: an Iconographic and Chronological Perspective." The Art of Precolumbian Gold, 1985, p.39.

  2. Helms, Mary W. "Iguanas and Crocodilians in Tropical American Mythology and Iconography with special reference to Panama". Journal of Latin American Lore 3(1): 51-132, 1977

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.