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Ear Spools

A work made of spondylus shell and greenstone.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of spondylus shell and greenstone.


200 BCE–200 CE


Colima or Jalisco
Colima or Jalisco, Mexico

About this artwork

Figures and jewelry made of spondylus (spiny oyster) shell developed as a specialization in what are today the Mexican states of Colima and Jalisco. Like greenstone, jade, and colorful feathers, this bright orange shell was a luxury item sought by maritime merchants from Ecuador and Central America, who found it in warm Pacific waters as far north as the West Mexican coast. As emblems of authority and status, exotic materials were displayed by rulers during ceremonial events. Spondylus-shell jewelry carved with symbolic designs found in West Mexican tombs indicates the high esteem in which this valued material was held.


On View, Gallery 136


Arts of the Americas




Ear Spools


Western Mexico (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

200 BCE–200 CE


Spondylus shell and greenstone


3.2 × 7.6 cm (1 1/4 × 3 in.) (each)

Credit Line

Maurice D. Galleher Endowment

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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