Downtown San Jose is a fun place to visit on vacation. The markets, the boulevards, and the museums are all worth visiting. One of the best museums in the capital city is the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum. Located below the Plaza de la Cultura or Culture Square, this museum displays an extraordinary collection of gold objects from 500 AD to 1500 AD. More than 1600 individual pieces are on display here under the custody of the Costa Rican Central Bank.
As in many other societies, gold was considered a representation of power, authority and dexterity during Pre Colombian times. Some of the objects include hooks, needles, personal decorations and other items. The Pre-Colombian artisans used alluvial gold for these projects, which is obtained from the silt and coastal shoreline sand. In order to become a metalworker and make these gold items, the artisans went through a long and complicated apprenticeship. This and a special skill set allowed them to become full time experts in the trade. The Pre-Colombians even made their own molds to design the piece although most pieces were made by hand. This was through a process of laminated plates made by hammering small pieces of gold into chest plates, bracelets, hair bands and disks.
When visiting the museum, you can find many representations based on animals like fish, jaguars, frogs, lizards, deer, crabs and turtles. This shows the importance that nature held for this historical society. Geometric designs and representations of humans were also popular. Most of the objects in the museum were recovered from the South Pacific area in Costa Rica. Scientists have evidence that natural gold used to exist here.
The museum is divided into two areas, very well laid out and easy to navigate. The orientation area is on the second level. Here tourists can learn about the history of the Pre-Colombian people as well as their evolution and development. Social and cultural aspects are all explored and give tourists with no previous history knowledge a great opportunity to understand what the museum is about. The introduction area also explains the history of metallurgy and shows visitors the differences in styles and stages throughout the country. The second level is the exhibition level. Here you can explore the different parts of the country and time periods through the gold showcased. There is also a bilingual introductory video, which puts everything into perspective. Each object is labeled with its time period and its use as well as possible meanings that the carvings or item itself would have had for the people that made it.
There are also several temporary exhibition galleries within the museum. Six of the Costa Rican feline species are displayed here including jaguars, oncillas, margays, cougars and jaguarundi. One of the most popular is the felines exhibit, which allows visitors to explore the origin of the feline species. These animals were very important to the Pre-Colombian people. Now however, they are in trouble and on their way to extinction because of lack of care.
The Pre-Columbian Gold Museum is open from 9:15 am to 5:00pm all year except for major holidays. This is a great day time activity in San Jose and an excellent way to escape the rain during rainy season. The museum offers a detailed history lesson to all of those interested in learning about one of the first Costa Rican societies.