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Identification and Creation
Object Number
1977.216.2202.8
Title
Ligula
Classification
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
medical instrument
Date
1st-4th century CE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Rome (Latium)
Period
Roman Imperial period
Culture
Roman
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/141854
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Copper alloy
Technique
Cast
Dimensions
18 x 0.8 cm (7 1/16 x 5/16 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The patina is grayish green. There are small surface losses, but the object is otherwise intact. The ligula was made by casting the rough shape and then working to further shape it and finish the surface.


Carol Snow (submitted 2002)

Provenance
Harold Wilmerding Bell, Cambridge, MA (by 1911), gift; to the Department of the Classics, Harvard University (1911-1977), transfer; to the Fogg Museum.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Department of the Classics, Harvard University, Gift of H. W. Bell
Accession Year
1977
Object Number
1977.216.2202.8
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
This ligula has a thick, diamond-shaped pan with a shallowly curved bottom set at a very slight angle. The circular-sectioned shaft tapers to a blunt tip (1).

Greek and Roman medical instruments, many of which were described by ancient authors, have been found, sometimes in sets, throughout the ancient world (2). The instruments could have been used for more than one function, making precise classification difficult in some instances. A ligula is a probe with a small scoop on one end, positioned at an angle to the shaft; the scoop was used to remove ointments and powdered medicines from containers and perhaps also apply them (3).

NOTES:

1. A similar instrument is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. no. 17.230.110.

2. J. S. Milne, Surgical Instruments in Greek and Roman Times (Oxford, 1907) 1-9; and D. Michaelides, “A Roman Surgeon’s Tomb from Nea Paphos,” Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus, 1984: 315-32, esp. 321-23.

3. Milne 1907 (supra 2) 77-78; Michaelides 1984 (supra 2) 325; R. Jackson and S. La Niece, “A Set of Roman Medical Instruments from Italy,” Britannia 17 (1986): 119-67, esp. 157; and L. J. Bliquez, Roman Surgical Instruments and Other Minor Objects in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (Mainz, 1994) 48-49.


David Smart

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