Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1968.89
Title
Fibula with Bow in the Form of a Bent Human Arm
Classification
Jewelry
Work Type
pin, fibula
Date
8th-4th century BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Iran
Period
Iron Age
Culture
Near Eastern
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/287668
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Bronze
Technique
Cast, lost-wax process
Dimensions
2.3 x 3.9 x 0.7 cm (7/8 x 1 9/16 x 1/4 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: Fibula
XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, nickel, arsenic

Pin
XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is green with areas of dark green. Brown burial accretions are also present. The condition is good, and the surface is well preserved.

The bow section was cast, probably using a lost-wax technique. A faint relief line along the outer edge of this component could be a mold line from casting the wax model in a mold, which means it was created using an indirect casting technique. The catchplate, in the form of a hand, was hammered from one end of the cast bow section. The wire for the pin and spring was made by cold working and inserted into a hole in the end of the bow.


Henry Lie (submitted 2012)

Provenance
Richard R. Wagner, gift; to the Fogg Museum, 1968.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Richard R. Wagner
Accession Year
1968
Object Number
1968.89
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions

Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
On the bow of this fibula are a series of ridged ribs that alternate in size. The final element, located just above the clasp, is in the form of rectangular cuff. These decorations might represent armlets and bracelets. The hand-shaped clasp, which is an attribute of Near Eastern fibulae dated no earlier than the seventh century BCE (Stronach’s Type IV), has clearly articulated fingers and a detached thumb (1). The accentuated apex, marked here by a vertical rib, is another indicator of this mature type, which became the standard form in the Achaemenid period (c. 539-331 BCE). This fibula bears a striking resemblance to an example in the Godard Collection that was acquired in Iran (2). It is also similar to a fibula excavated from an Iron Age III Luristan tomb at the site of Cham Sul (3).

Fibulae were worn at the chest or shoulder to fasten garments, similar to a safety pin. They sometimes also served to secure pendants suspended from chains (4). These devices first came into use in the Near East near the end of the second millennium BCE, when they were probably introduced by eastern Mediterranean merchants. The earliest fibulae excavated in Mesopotamia and Iran are dated to the eighth century BCE. Fibulae appear more frequently in Near Eastern contexts of the seventh century and later, when they surpassed the straight pin in popularity. Most Near Eastern fibulae have a triangular bow, as seen in the Harvard examples. Fibulae of this form, sometimes referred to as “elbow” -shaped, belong to Type XIII of Blinkenberg’s classification and to Types III and IV of Stronach’s typology (5).

Near Eastern elbow fibulae vary in size and detail, but in general, they are relatively plain and usually have bead-and-reel decoration. The arms of the bow are often of slightly unequal lengths, with the longer one terminating in a catchplate that sometimes takes the form of a human hand. The spring typically consists of a triple loop that extends into a round, tapered, and pointed pin. Fibulae were often produced from two pieces that were joined by inserting the pin into the bow.

The Harvard fibulae can be generally compared with Neo-Assyrian examples from the Mesopotamian sites of Nimrud, Nineveh, and Khorsabad, as well as with Iranian examples from Iron Age III levels at the Luristan sites of War Kabud, Sar Kabud, Cham Sul, Dam Chaft, and Tepe Nush-i Jan, among others (6). Although separate production centers probably existed, it appears Mesopotamia and Iran used similar fibula types, making it difficult to assign provenience to unexcavated pieces (7).

NOTES:

1. D. Stronach, “The Development of the Fibula in the Near East,” Iraq 21 (1959): 180-206, esp. 201-203.

2. E. de Waele, Bronzes du Luristan et d’Amlash, Publications d’historie de l’art et d’archeologie de l’Université Catholique de Louvain 34 (Louvain-La-Neuve, 1982) 158-59, no. 224.

3. L. Vanden Berghe, “Les fibules provenant des fouilles au Pusht-i Kuh, Luristan,” Iranica Antiqua 13 (1978): 35-74, esp. 50 and 53, no. 18, fig. 9, pl. 3.

4. Ibid., 41 and 51-52, nos. 1-2, fig. 4, pl. 2.

5. C. Blinkenberg, Lindiaka 5: Fibules grecques et orientales, Historisk-filologiske meddelelser 13.1 (Copenhagen, 1926) 244; and Stronach 1959 (supra 1) 193-203.

6. J. Curtis, Nush-i Jan 3: The Small Finds (London, 1984) 29-30, nos. 263-74, fig. 5; O. W. Muscarella, Bronze and Iron: Ancient Near Eastern Artifacts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 1988) 209, no. 317; Stronach 1959 (supra 1) 200; and Vanden Berghe 1978 (supra 2).

7. For a fibula found at Nimrud that is nearly identical to one found in a tomb at the site of Gul Khanan Murdah on the western fringe of Luristan, see E. Haerinck and B. Overlaet, Djub-i Gauhar and Gul Khanan Murdah: Iron Age III Graveyards in the Aivan Plain, Luristan Excavation Documents 3, Acta Iranica 36 (Leuven, 1999) 171.


Amy Gansell

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu