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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Strap End with Inset Silver Designs
Work Type
9th-10th century
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Middle Ages, Early
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Mixed copper alloy, silver inlays
Cast, lost-wax process
5.55 x 1.56 cm (2 3/16 x 5/8 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: Main
XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Mixed Copper Alloy
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead, zinc
Other Elements: iron, silver
Comments: The decorated side of the object has silver inlays.

XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Mixed Copper Alloy
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, zinc
Other Elements: lead, iron, arsenic

XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Silver
Alloying Elements: silver
Other Elements: lead, gold, copper

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The body of the piece has a dark grayish-black patina; the underside has a lighter tan surface accretion, which suggests that the piece was attached or embedded in some other material at that end.

The body is cast in one piece. Its simple shape, with no apparent undercuts, suggests that it could have been cast in a two-part mold. The inlayed eye sockets must have been fashioned in the metal. Silver wire inlay appears in seven sections of the front, set into a field of another material, perhaps niello, that is dark gray with a metallic sheen. A few discreet areas of these darker fields are distorted into brighter, solder-like blobs. The eyes are inset with transparent glass or stone. One eye inlay has a bluish opalescent sheen, and its outer surface is on a level with the outside of the copper alloy socket. The other eye is more recessed, perhaps due to damage. The top of the object, once bifurcated but now missing the front section, protrudes as a flap that is flatter than the rest of the piece, in line with the strap end’s back surface. The bottom curves of the rivet holes are preserved.

Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2012)


Recorded Ownership History
[Joseph Linzalone, Wolfshead Gallery, Ridgewood, NJ, sold]; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 2002.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Purchase through the generosity of Mrs. Waltrud Lampé
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 strap end has a curving, molded form, terminating in a stylized zoomorphic head. A thin, pointed snout and two curving ears with circular impressions are clearly visible. Two paisley-shaped moldings define each edge of the upper portion of the strap end; each of these moldings tapers from a wide curving section to a raised knob. Silver decoration is present on all of these four shapes, as well as on the diamond shape between them, the triangular shape above the ears of the animal, and the animal’s brow. The designs on the silver inlay consist of interlocking spirals and other curvilinear shapes. The back is flat and featureless.

Strap ends are a relatively common item in medieval northern Europe; they would have adorned the ends of leather or cloth straps on belts and perhaps other types of equipment (1). This example has an animal head terminal, as do many others dated to the ninth to tenth centuries, but its highly modeled sides and top are somewhat unusual (2).


1. D. M. Wilson, Anglo-Saxon Ornamental Metalwork 700-1100 in the British Museum (London, 1964) 62-63.

2. Although there are no close parallels, one can compare other elaborate and silver-inlaid strap ends such as Wilson 1964 (supra 1) 29 and 62, no. 135, pl. 42.

Lisa M. Anderson

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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