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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Inscribed Arrowhead
Weapons and Ammunition
Work Type
first half 4th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Macedonia, Olynthos (Macedonia)
Classical period, Late
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
6.8 x 2.1 cm (2 11/16 x 13/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Leaded Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead
Other Elements: iron, antimony
K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is green with brown burial accretions. The surface is well preserved. A 2-cm crack, which probably predates burial, extends up from the base to the holes at the central casting flaw. The object is stable.

Three mold lines at the exterior of the conical shaft hole and coinciding with the three blade-planes indicate the wax model for the bronze was made with a three-part mold. An integral or separate fourth mold section would have formed the hollow shaft-hole’s interior surface. The mold lines probably extended to include the blade edges, but they were removed when the blade was sharped, as evidenced by the fine abrasive striations in these edges. The raised inscription was cut into the middle of one of the three mold sections, and the many wax models cast from this mold set would have made identical raised inscriptions in the resulting casts. The soft shapes of the individual letters indicate that a round tipped tool was probably used to inscribe the mold. The holes in the mid-section of the projectile point are casting flaws.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)

Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: in Greek:
    [mold-made letters in retrograde]
Ritsos Collection. David M. Robinson, Baltimore, MD, bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1960.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of David M. Robinson
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This three-finned, large bronze projectile point was cast in a three-part mold. The casting seams are visible behind the barbs of each fin. There are casting flaws along the central socket. The tip is blunted, as if from impact; the edge of each fin is sharp. The individual fins end in a sharp undercut barb, which also has a tapered sharpened edge. One side bears a cast inscription in relief (ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟ) with Greek letters in retrograde, reading “of Philip” (1). This projectile point probably fit onto the wooden shaft of a large thrust or fired missile. It appears to be too large to fire from a conventional bow. One suspects that it was intended to be fired from a small crossbow or catapult-like device (2). Its reported findspot “near the city of Olynthos” and the presence of the inscription indicate that it was probably used during the siege of Olynthos by Philip II of Macedon in 348 BCE. Similar inscriptions are also found on Late Classical and Hellenistic sling bullets. The sentiment on this missile tip resembles the messages chalked on highly explosive 500-pound bombs dropped during World War II, which read, “Take that, Adolf.” This and other projectile heads in the Thessaloniki and Polygyros museums supposedly come from the Ritsos collection.


1. The Harvard object is similar to three published in Ancient Macedonia, exh. cat., Museum of Victoria, Melbourne; Queensland Museum, Brisbane; Australian Museum, Sydney (Athens, 1988) 215, no. 156 (Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, inv. nos. Ol. 3175, 34146, and 34147) from Olynthus, House A9, Rooms L and H, Avenue B; also published in D. Pandermalis, ed., Alexander the Great: Treasures from an Epic Era of Hellenism, exh. cat., Onassis Foundation (New York, 2004) 60, no. 13. Their lengths vary between 6.8 cm and 7.0 cm, like the Harvard projectile head. Additional projectile heads with the same inscription and of similar lengths are published in D. M. Robinson, Metal and Minor Miscellaneous Finds, an Original Contribution to Greek Life, Excavations at Olynthus 10 (Baltimore, 1941) 382-83 (Type C), nos. 1907-11, pl. 120.

2. For the use of these specific inscribed missile heads for smaller types of non-torsion catapults, known as gastraphetes, compare E. W. Marsden, “Macedonian Military Machinery and its Designers under Philip and Alexander,” in Ancient Macedonia 2: Papers Read at the Second International Symposium held in Thessaloniki, 19-24 August 1973 (Thessaloniki, 1977) 211-23, esp. 213-16, nn. 9-12; A. M. Snodgrass, Arms and Armor of the Greeks (London, 1967) 116-17; and id., Review of “Greek and Roman Artillery, Historical Development,” The Classical Review 21 (1971): 106-108, esp. 108.

David G. Mitten

Publication History

Fogg Art Museum, The David Moore Robinson Bequest of Classical Art and Antiquities, A Special Exhibition, exh. cat., Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, 1961), p. 30, no. 241.

John Bodel and Stephen Tracy, Greek and Latin Inscriptions in the USA: A checklist, American Academy in Rome (New York, 1997), p. 49.

Exhibition History

The David Moore Robinson Bequest of Classical Art and Antiquities: A Special Exhibition, Fogg Art Museum, 05/01/1961 - 09/20/1961

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

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