Pair of ear spools

400–700 CE
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General Description

The pre-Hispanic goldwork of Colombia is traditionally classified by archaeological zones, or regions, each with stylistic associations, varying in iconography and technology: Calima, Quimbaya, Tolima, and Nariño in the southwest; Zenú (Sinú) and Tairona in northwestern Colombia; and Muisca in the central highlands southeast of Bogotá. The Calima region encompasses the upper Calima River valley and surrounding areas of the Western Cordillera, extending east to the Cauca River. Calima goldwork, like other styles of southwestern Colombia, is characterized by the use of high-quality gold and a preference for working the metal directly by hammering.

Research in the Calima region has established several periods of occupation. Calima goldsmiths achieved their foremost accomplishments during the period called Yotoco (100-700 CE). Their richly varied works were primarily objects of personal adornment. Headdress elements, pectorals, bracelets, anklets, and nose and ear ornaments probably functioned as ceremonial regalia for elite men. Typical Yotoco gold pieces include a large chest pectoral, an H‑shaped nose ornament (itself a face), and dish‑shaped ear ornaments which could have been attached to a cloth headdress. Decorated with delicate scrolls and spirals in fine relief on the surface with raised linear bands around the edging, these highly polished gold ear spools would have originally been worn inserted through holes in the ear lobes, though they could have been worn independently or threaded with dangling beads or feathers. When worn together, as many pieces undoubtedly were, they would have created a dazzling golden image.

Adapted from

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Ceremonial mask (1976.W.321)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 33.

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Headdress ornament with heads flanked by crested crocodiles (1976.W.319)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 34.

  • Carol Robbins, "Ceremonial mask (1976.W.321)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 178.

Fun Facts

  • These ear ornaments were featured in the World of Ancient Gold exhibit at the New York's World's Fair, Travel and Transportation Pavilion (April 22-October 18, 1964).