Pair of Earflares, Winged Messengers

Date: A.D. 400–700

Geography: Peru

Culture: Moche

Medium: Gold, turquoise, sodalite, shell

Dimensions: Diam. 3 3/16 in. (8 cm)

Classification: Metal-Ornaments

Credit Line: Gift and Bequest of Alice K. Bache, 1966, 1977

Accession Number: 66.196.40-.41


Large circular ear ornaments were popular personal adornments of prominent ancient Moche lords and a symbol of their status and wealth. The weight of the frontal, which could reach widths of more than four inches, was counterbalanced by a long tubular shaft that went through the distended hole in the earlobe. Particularly impressive are those earflares with colorful mosaics. On this pair, bird-headed (or masked) winged runners, worked in turquoise, sodalite, and spondylus shell, hold bags in their outstretched hands. Their eyes and beaks are sheathed in gold. They may be depictions of mythological messengers.