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    Two Dayak Aso-shaped Brass Ear Ornaments

    Dayak People, Borneo, Malaysia
    19th century

    width: approximately 3.5cm, combined weight: 99g



    private collection, Germany.

    – scroll down to see further images –

    These two fine man’s brass ear ornaments are from the Dayak people of Borneo.

    They are heavy. As such they served both as ear pendants and weights, designed to help stretch the earlobes to exaggerated lengths.

    The form of these ear pendants is based on the aso, a mythical underworld hybrid dragon-dog female fertility figure. (One is more abstract than the other.) Richter (2000, p. 174) says that such ‘curvilinear vitality’ may be derived in part from dragons or other mythical creatures portrayed in Chinese trade ceramics that were imported into Borneo in vast quantities.

    Each has been made using the lost-wax casting method.

    Ear ornaments of brass were signs of prestige and beauty.

    A single, related example is illustrated in Brinkgreve & Stuart-Fox (2013, p. 251). Other related examples are illustrated in Rodgers (1995, p. 280).

    The two are in excellent condition and have fine, varying golden patina, with contours worn smooth by age and handling.


    A young Dayak man wearing similar ear pendants, early 20th century.

    (further images below)


    Hoek, C., et al, Ethnic Jewellery: From Africa, Asia and Pacific Islands, Pepin Press, 2004.

    Richter, A., The Jewelry of Southeast Asia, Thames & Hudson, 2000.

    Rodgers, S., Power and Gold: Jewelry from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, The Barbier-Mueller Museum, Geneva, 3rd ed. 1995.

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