ANCIENT MODS UPDATE, 12/4/11 - Gold Standard (2nd Century C.E.)
I wonder if this would be acceptable today - wearing an earring post about 3/4” in diameter with a front face of 3”. I suspect there might be an underlying machismo that would interpret this as “pretending” to have ears stretched larger than they actually are.
Size isn’t all that matters though. Symbolism and substance count too.
In many cultures, costume was a mechanism for conveying status (or identity), and being able to effectively communicate this is important to understanding how people ought to relate to you. A large front diameter, besides creating an iconic silhouette of authority, allows a broader planar dimension in which to craft a clear symbol - in this case of a pair of mirrored condors.
“The Andean condor, identified by the large caruncle at the base of its beak and the wattle around its neck, is the largest bird of prey alive today. A frequent theme in Moche art, condors may have been associated with predation, death, and sacrifice…” (HK)
The physical matter from which this ornament is fabricated - silver, gold and shell - were often reserved for elite members of ancient South American cultures. Copper and lesser stones would be permissible for lower members with rare materials, like spondylus shell, being especially prized. Consider that,
“For the peoples of ancient America gold was endowed with spiritual and symbolic meaning. The Inka of Peru thought of gold as the rain of the sun, a major deity; and the word for gold in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs of Mexico, is teocuitlatl (excrement of the gods). The Inka considered the mountains where the metal was found to be huacas (sacred places) and are said to have made offerings to the mines. The peoples of Costa Rica and Panama looked upon gold collecting as a sacred activity and purified their bodies by fasting for several days beforehand to ensure success. Gold was associated with worldly power, status, and wealth. In the vast Inka empire, which in the early sixteenth century stretched from Ecuador to central Chile and Bolivia, gold was the property of the Inka rulers; no commoner could own even the smallest bit. Similarly, the powerful rulers of the Aztecs, whose empire in the sixteenth century extended from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, had sole control over mines and workshops. Only emperors were entitled to gift gold objects, usually to reward exceptionally brave soldiers, who wore the ornaments proudly as badges of honor.”
Quotes from Heidi King, “Gold in Ancient America”
(The metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin), New Series, Vol. 59, No. 4, Gold of the Americas (Spring 2002), pp.5-55
Pair of Condor Earflares
Culture - Moche (Loma Negra)
Date - 2nd-3rd Century
Measurements - 3” diameter
Material - Silver, Gold, Gilded Copper, Shell
Identification # - 6077, 6078
Repository - The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Website - http://www.metmuseum.org