earflares

Moche earflares found on the North Coast of Peru. These date to AD 400-600 (Early Intermediate), and are made of gold alloy, turquoise, and stone inlay.

Fine craftsmanship typifies the precious metal jewelry worn by the Moche elite. From cast decorative edgings, to hammered sheets of gold rolled into shafts, to the intricate inlays of semiprecious stones, these astonishing ornaments embellished members of the elite. Not only did the dazzling artworks glitter in the brilliant desert sun, symbolically bathing the wearer in the power of the golden orb, but their symbolic imagery and exceptional artistry enhanced the status and authority of the bejeweled person.

The earflares were the personal ornaments of a member of the Moche elite. They feature a striding warrior with his club weapon thrust forward at the ready. A round shield typical of Moche combatants protects his midsection from the blows of an opponent. His conical helmet-hat is that of a high-ranking person and recalls the head covering of the Warrior Priest, the key figure in the Sacrifice Ceremony that was the culmination of Moche ritual warfare. (walters)

Courtesy of & currently located at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore: 2009.20.65.

Silver and gold earflares from the Chimú culture,14th-15th century, Peru.

In ancient Peruvian cultures, precious metals had a special status. As materials, silver and gold were symbols of power and prestige and also held symbolic and religious significance. Objects of silver and gold — such as nose and ear ornaments — were worn exclusively by the elite, and expressed social status and political authority in life and in death when they were placed as offerings in tombs with the deceased. - metmuseum.org (text and photo).

-> I would totally kill for a pair of these :)

Pair of earflares with condors, 2nd–3rd century
Peru; Moche

Gold, silver, gilt copper, shell; Diam. 3 in. (7.6 cm)

Metropolitan Museum:

Moche metalworkers were among the most inventive and talented in ancient Peru. They developed sophisticated mechanical and metallurgical techniques for joining the three basic metals they worked: gold, copper, and silver. On these technically complex earflares, the front plates are made of sheet gold to which repoussé silver birds are attached by small tabs. The back plates and shafts are of gilded copper and also join in this manner. The ornaments were worn in the distended lobes of the ears, the long tubular shafts counterbalancing the weight of the frontals.

The birds with massive talons and strong, curved beaks adorning these earflares depict Andean condors, identified by the large caruncle (fleshy protuberance) at the base of their beaks and the wattle around their necks. Impressive birds with a wing span of up to ten feet, Andean condors inhabit the high Andes mountains above 9,000 feet. They are primarily carrion eaters, but will occasionally kill for food. Condors and vultures are highly symbolic birds and are a frequent theme in Moche art. They embellishtumis, or knives used in ritual sacrifice, and are often shown pecking at human and animal heads and bodies. Because of their eating habits, they have a natural connection with predation, death, and sacrifice. Perhaps these ornaments were worn by an individual performing a sacrifice.

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Earflares from ancient Maya.

Earflares were used in ancient Maya to stretch and be worn in the ear of the user. Some of their designs are similar to today’s ear plugs or tunnels.

Worn by the elite, jade earflares were a mark of power and wealth. In ancient Maya, jade was the most precious of all stones. Wearing jade earflares, such as those displayed above, heightened the individual's social prestige. Due to the lengthy amount of time taken to properly stretch the ear, they were also a sign of discipline and patience.

All of these artifacts are either from Mexico or Guatemala, and made of jadeite. The flower-shaped earflares in the first photo date to 550-850, while the other two date to 600-900. 

Artifacts shown courtesy of & currently located at the LACMA, USA, via their online collections (1, 2 & 3).