Pair of Earflare Frontals

Date: 5th–7th century

Geography: Guatemala (?), Mesoamerica

Culture: Maya

Medium: Shell

Dimensions: H. 2 1/4 x W. 1 3/4 in. (5.7 x 4.5cm)

Classification: Shell-Ornaments

Credit Line: Purchase, Arthur M. Bullowa Bequest, 1995

Accession Number: 1995.489a, b


Maya artists worked in a wide variety of media, including clay, limestone, jade, flint, bone, and, in this case, shell. Shell objects are often found in burial contexts due to associations with water, fertility, and the underworld. These shell frontals for ear ornaments are carved with profile faces in very low relief and would probably have been fastened to their backings through the central perforations. In spite of their small size, considerable detail has been worked into the frontals where the profile faces exhibit the flattened Maya forehead and dental modifications. The motif on the front of the forehead is unclear, but it may be a jade ornament through which a lock of hair is threaded.