Nose Ornament with Spiders

Date: 100 B.C.–A.D. 200

Geography: Peru, North Coast

Culture: Salinar (?)

Medium: Gold

Dimensions: H. 2 x W. 4 3/8 x D. 1/8 in. (5.1 x 11.1 x 0.3 cm)

Classification: Metal-Ornaments

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.206.1172


Nose ornaments are among the earliest jewelry forms in Precolumbian America and were made in an endless variety of materials and styles; those for the elite were made of precious metal. In Peru, nose ornaments became less fashionable in the second half of the first millennium A.D. and were seldom used after about 600. This elegant, very delicate crescent nose ring from northern Peru is evidence of the high level of craftsmanship that existed among metalworkers at this time. Depicted are four spiders sitting in their web. The openwork, lacelike quality of the object was achieved by fusing the many minute parts together to create a symmetrical composition. The stylized spiders, their tiny eyes and fangs showing, are held, each in its own open space, by paired, spindly legs echoing the round bodies and joined to the web.

Spider imagery occurs in Peruvian art from the middle of the first millennium B.C. onward, suggesting that spiders played a role in early Andean mythology. The spiders' ability to catch and kill live prey associates them with sacrifice. Information from the sixteenth-century Inca peoples links spiders with rainfall and fertility.