Artifacts - Mexico and Central America



Costa Rican Mayan

Ear Spools

circa 200 to 800 AD

collected circa 1970

Piece is currently at auction on EBAY 


From a California private collection 


A nice grouping of Mayan ear spools ( ear flares) in three materials. Two greenstone ( serpentine ) spools, one speckled light and dark green and one a more uniform medium green with a fine grained mottled matrix.  The third is white alabaster.  Mottled green spool is drilled on one side for backing post.  The other two are not drilled.

Jade, jadeite, and greenstone were precious materials in the eyes of the pre-Columbian peoples of Costa Rica, and were worked into a wide variety of items from tools and utensils to items worn as emblems of social and political power.

dimensions: approx 1 3/4" diameter at outer rim x 3/4" high

Mottled green spool is slightly smaller.


CONDITION: Typical age wear.  Medium green flare has one rim chip and moderate calcification. Mottled flare shows some calcification.  Both may have been underwater.  Alabaster flare is repaired.

One of the most interesting and pronounced forms of body adornment throughout history has been that of piercing the ears in order to insert ear spools or flares – referred to in modern times as “ear plugs.” Ear flares from Costa Rica are thought to have been symbols of spirituality, visual representations of a stratified society, as well as delicate heirlooms passed down through generations, and  important enough to be buried with their owners.


Although it is believed that most adult males and females wore ear spools in pre-Columbian Costa Rica the number that has survived is small, and they are a rare archaeological find. The only surviving ear flares that come down to us are made of jade, stone, gold, shell, or ceramic. It is likely that they were also made of bone and wood.  Costa Rican spools are similar to ear spools from the Mayan area to the north. The Costa Rican ear spools, however, are ring-shaped and occur as one piece, whereas the Northern Mayan spools often come in two parts that are put through both sides of the ear and connect in the center. 

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