Pair of Ear Spools


Not on view

Calima leaders of the Yotoco period in the Cauca Valley region of southwest Colombia wore resplendent regalia in life and in death. These included diadems, pectorals, nose ornaments, and elaborate, multicomponent ear ornaments terminating in large, circular pendants. Biconical or spool-shaped objects with decorated ends such as these were inserted through the earlobes, and large concave disks gold would be suspended through an opening at the center of these with thin gold wires. Made of lightweight hammered gold sheet, the biconical elements probably had interior wooden supports (now lost) which would have strengthened them and allowed for the suspension of the concave disks (not shown here, but see 66.196.24 for an example of such multi-component ear ornaments depicted on a headdress diadem).

This pair of earspools was made by hammering gold into a sheet, and then cutting pieces into desired shapes. The central cones of the hollow spools were made of a single piece of metal, joined at the seam with tiny pins or nails (now lost). The flat ends of the cones were worked from the front to create a four-pointed star and scroll design, and then attached to the cones by crimping the edges together.

The ruler’s regalia also included cuffs and greaves (shin armor), giving the overall effect of a body covered in gold. As the wearer moved, the accoutrements would have shimmered and made sound, creating dazzling visual and audible effects perceptible from considerable distances.


Jones, Julie. The Art of Precolumbian Gold: The Jan Mitchell Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1985, no. 56, pp. 194–95. Jones, Julie, and Heidi King, “Gold of the Americas,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Spring 2002, p. 16.

Further Reading

Botero, Clara Isabel, Roberto Lleras Pérez, Santiago Londoño Vélez and Efraín Sánchez Cabra. The Art of Gold, The Legacy of Pre-Hispanic Colombia: Collection of the Gold Museum of Bogotá. Mexico, D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica, Banco de la República, 2007.

Bray, Warwick, “Craftsmen and Farmers: The Archaeology of the Yotoco Period,” in Calima and Malagana: Art and Archaeology in Southwestern Colombia, edited by Marianne Cardale de Schrimpff, pp. 98−139 (Bogotá: Pro Calima Foundation, 2005).

Pérez de Barradas, José. Orfebrería Prehispánica de Colombia Estilo Calima. Bogotá: Banco de la República, 1954.

Pillsbury, Joanne, Timothy Potts, and Kim N. Richter, eds., Golden Kingdoms: Luxury Arts in the Ancient Americas (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2017). See especially cat. 84.3, pp. 184-185.

Uribe Villegas, María Alicia, and Marcos Martiñon-Torres, “Metallurgy and Prestige in Ancient Colombia,” in Golden Kingdoms: Luxury Arts in the Ancient Americas, Joanne Pillsbury, Timothy Potts, and Kim N. Richter, eds., pp. 44-53 (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2017).

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