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One of the supposed aeroplane gold models

One of the supposed aeroplane gold models

A number of curious gold ornaments from Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru and Venezuela have been interpreted by some as model aeroplanes after the Scottish Fortean Ivan Terrance Sanderson (1911-1973), founder of the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the United States, saw a reproduction of a Colombian example. The original object had been part of a travelling exhibition organised by the Colombian government in 1954, as a result of which the jeweller Emmanuel Staubs was commissioned to make reproductions of six of the objects. The reproduction that caught Sanderson’s attention was only 50 mm long and had been made to hang from a necklace. The top end (which Sanderson identified as the tail fin of the aeroplane) had a mark on one side that he thought resembled an early Hebrew letter ב (beth).

The original pendants are of Chimú origin and are generally classed as zoömorphic types, with the majority resembling winged insects, birds, bats and stingrays. The Chimú (or Mochica) culture flourished in South America between about 200 BCE and 800 CE. Chimú gold ornaments of this type show considerable variation. Taking one object out of context, as Ivan Sanderson did, is disingenuous and borders on dishonesty. The variability shown by these pendants does not mask their origins as highly stylised representations of winged creatures.

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