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Bronze plaque

Bronze plaque
AD 900–1500
Atacama Desert, Argentina
Copper alloy
20 x 15 cm
Purchased from the Maryland Historical Society

Bronze plaques may have been associated with the spread of religious ideas and long distance trade. The intriguing iconography on this rectangular plaque is neither extremely rare nor very common. It depicts El Gran Sacrificiador (The Great Sacrificer) associated with northwestern Argentina. He is wearing a collar and is flanked by felines, oddly shaped geometric motifs, and two crosses. Similar plaques are found in elite public contexts, such as palaces, in northwestern Argentina. Around AD 1100 to 1200, plaques made their way south through the grasslands of Argentina, and all the way into southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. They seem to have been traded like religious icons and were probably associated with a cult that is not very well understood. They have been found among hunter-gatherer groups—the Telueche, in particular—in Patagonia.

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