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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Horse Plaque
Other Titles
Former Title: Ordos Horse
Work Type
5th-2nd century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia?
Central Asian?
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
4.7 x 6.6 x 0.7 cm (1 7/8 x 2 5/8 x 1/4 in.)
Technical Details

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

Technical Observations: The patina is half green and half red corrosion products that underlie the green; there are also light-brown burial accretions. Much of the green corrosion products on the front appears to be pseudomorphs of a fibrous organic material. There is none of the twisted structure one might expect from a textile material. The surface is fairly well preserved. Chip losses at several areas indicate deep mineralization.

The reverse is somewhat concave. The thickness of the casting decreases near the edges. If this was produced by the lost-wax process, these thinner edges appear to be the result of pushing a wax sheet into an open mold and pinching off the periphery. The only details are the incised lines of the mane of the horse, which are crisp and appear to have been made by cold working.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Carol Hebb and Alan Feldbaum
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 animal plaque in the shape of a horse or wolf is in relief on the exterior and concave on the interior. The animal is shown in profile, walking right (1). It has a pointed, triangular ear, a perforation for the eye, and two holes in the muzzle, perhaps to indicate the nostrils and mouth. The end of the snout is flat. A row of thin, incised lines on the back of the neck may indicate a mane. Only one foreleg and one hindleg are represented, but two joints and hooves are distinguished on each. The long, thin tail is separate from the body except for a strut connecting it to the hindleg near the tip; no details of the hair of the tail are indicated. On the concave reverse are two raised, vertical bars—one spans the neck of the animal, while the other crosses the midsection. The bars could be the remnants of attachment elements. This piece could have been used as a belt plaque, a pectoral, or an element of decoration for a horse harness.


1. Compare Treasures of the Eurasian Steppes: Animal Art from 800 BC to 200 AD, Ariadne Galleries (New York, 1998) 56-57, 94, and 112, nos. 56, 100, and 116-17 (all indicate a similar method of attachment); and U. Jäger and S. Kansteiner, Ancient Metalwork from the Black Sea to China in the Borowski Collection (Ruhpolding, 2011) 62-64, nos. 80-83. Compare also two hollow horse statuettes of a very similar style to this piece in E. C. Bunker, “Animal Style” Art from East to West, exh. cat., Asia House Gallery, New York; University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco (New York, 1970) 142, no. 102.

Lisa M. Anderson

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Verification Level

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