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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Bracelet or "Athlete's Ring"
Work Type
6th-5th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Iron Age
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Copper alloy
Cast, lost-wax process
13 x 2.5 cm (5 1/8 x 15/16 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: These two almost perfectly round rings (2012.1.77 and 2012.1.78) are solid and have symmetrically spaced torus-shaped protrusions around their circumferences. These rings are not an identical and were probably not an original pair. The segment lengths between the six protrusions on 2012.1.77 are 6.9, 6.6, 4.5, 4.3, 4.2, and 4.75 cm; and the lengths between the four protrusions on 2012.1.78 are 7.9, 6.9, 7.13, and 6.4 cm. Each of these protrusions has a slight step at each end. Whether these were merely decorative, served a function, or reflect part of the fabrication process is not clear.

2012.1.77 has a grayish-brown matte appearance interspersed with greenish-black areas and the remains of light pinkish-tan burial accretions. Close examination reveals areas where the surface has chipped off exposing a cupritic reddish surface, which is evidence of a naturally aged bronze. Some of the black accretions are copper sulfide resulting from post-excavation storage conditions. 2012.1.78 has a slightly different patina, with grayish-white accretions overall and a bumpy green corroded surface below, which has also chipped off in some areas to reveal cuprite.

The diameter of the solid metal loop that forms the ring is c. 1.0 cm on 2012.1.77, and 0.89 to 0.98 cm on 2012.1.78; the torus-shaped protrusions are slightly oval and between 1.95 to 2.45 cm on 2012.1.77 and c. 1.8 to 2.1 cm on 2012.1.78.

There is no conclusive evidence of how the wax models were assembled. It is not clear whether the protrusions were formed over the previously shaped ring or if segments of the ring were joined in alternation with the protruding elements, but each object was clearly cast in one piece. The ring segments are slightly thicker as they approach to the protruding elements.

Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2011)


Recorded Ownership History
The Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University (before 1959-2012), transfer; to the Harvard Art Museums, 2012.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University
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 thick, circular bronze ring has six evenly spaced torus-shaped protrusions around its circumference that are c. 1 cm thick and rounded on the edges. There is a smaller circular rise on either side of each torus.

While rings of this type—with a relatively wide diameter and four to six protruding knobs—are most common in Italy (particularly Marche and Umbria), examples are known from elsewhere in the ancient world, such as Greece. Their purpose is unknown, and suggestions have ranged from decorative bracelets to rings for athletes to horse equipment to currency to objects used in the process of making wine or olive oil (1). They are typically found in female graves, most often in Picenum (2).


1. For the interpretation that they were used in making wine and olive oil, see an article by the object’s former owner, W. B. McDaniel, “The So-Called Athlete’s Ring,” American Journal of Archaeology 22.3 (1918): 295-303.

2. See A.-M. Adam, Bronzes étrusques et italiques (Paris, 1984) 135, nos. 172-74; and F. Jurgeit, Die etruskischen und italischen Bronzen sowie Gegenstände aus Eisen, Blei, und Leder im Badischen Landesmuseum Karlsruhe, Terra Italia 5 (Pisa, 1999) 624-25, nos. 1093-94, pl. 284.

Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

  • John Crawford, Sidney Goldstein, George M. A. Hanfmann, John Kroll, Judith Lerner, Miranda Marvin, Charlotte Moore, and Duane Roller, Objects of Ancient Daily Life. A Catalogue of the Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection Belonging to the Department of the Classics, Harvard University, ed. Jane Waldbaum, Department of the Classics (unpublished manuscript, 1970), M17, p. 162 [J. S. Crawford]

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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