Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Finial in the Form of a Head of a Stylized Bird
Work Type
7th-4th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia
Central Asian
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Brass, gold eye
Cast, lost-wax process
5.3 x 2.5 x 1.6 x 0.1 cm (2 1/16 x 1 x 5/8 x 1/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: Main
XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Brass
Alloying Elements: copper, zinc
Other Elements: tin, lead, arsenic

XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Gold
Alloying Elements: gold, silver, copper

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is dark green with brown burial accretions. The surface is slightly worn and polished but is in good condition. One of the two rivets is lost. The eye on the right side is lost.

The head section is a solid cast. The holes for the eyes are irregular and could have been drilled in the metal rather than cast. The line encircling each eye appears to have been cut with an abrasive tool. The gold eye is hemispherical and appears to be a thin sheet. The long neck section is a sheet wrapped around a recess at the bottom of the cast head. A 4-mm wide overlap seam joins the edges of this rolled sheet. No secondary metal, such as a solder, is visible at the seam or the join at the neck. The one remaining rivet is a 2.5-mm pin peened at the two ends to hold it in place. The two original rivets probably held the finial to a shaft that was perhaps made of wood.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Peter G. Neumann
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 finial consists of a stylized bird head joined to a hollow circular socket. The head lacks detail except for around the eyes. The beak or snout is short and rounded. The preserved left eye is a dome of gold alloy within a large almond-shape; the right eye is missing, revealing that the space between the eyes is hollow, while the rest of the head is otherwise solid. The socket is a rolled sheet, with a seam visible on the back. On each side of the socket, in a line below each eye, are two rivet holes. The top rivet survives, with the shaft visible inside the socket; the lower rivet is missing.

Other finials with bird or other animal heads atop hollow sockets have been attributed to the vast territory between Eastern Europe and China (1). This finial would presumably have functioned as decoration, affixed to a wooden pole.


1. Compare U. Jäger and S. Kansteiner, Ancient Metalwork from the Black Sea to China in the Borowski Collection (Ruhpolding, 2011) 86-89, nos. 120-24; E. Korolkova, The Animal Style of Eurasia: Art of the Lower Volga and South Urals Tribes in the Scythian Epoch (7th-4th centuries B. C.) (St. Petersburg, 2006) pl. 27 (some with animal heads on perforated sockets, others with animal heads on perforated shafts) [in Russian]; and V. Griessmaier, Sammlung Baron Eduard von der Heydt, Wien (Vienna, 1936) 64-67, nos. 99 and 102. Similar bird-heads with perforations through the neck are known at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, inv. nos. 1970.511-12, and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. no. 61.60.2. Although the three examples have much shorter necks than the Harvard piece, they are otherwise similar enough in size and style to have had a related function.

Lisa M. Anderson

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

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