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Identification and Creation
Object Number
2012.1.42
Title
Comb
Classification
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
comb
Date
8th-7th century BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, North Italy
Period
Iron Age
Culture
Italic
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/178400
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Bronze
Technique
Hammered
Dimensions
5.3 x 4.2 cm (2 1/16 x 1 5/8 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, nickel, antimony, arsenic
K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: This fragment appears to have a cut-off corner. Its entire surface is covered by green copper corrosion products that have reddish-brown cupritic accretions emerging under them in some areas. There are some lighter green, possibly active, localized areas of bronze disease and extensive patches of fine blackish-brown copper sulfide accretions that are probably due to a post-excavation storage environment. There is also a localized area with a matte, lilac-colored accretion, possibly azurite, on a clump of the teeth that may be related to some repair material. The surface has been cleaned mechanically of some of the corrosion accretions, causing scratches and chisel marks on some of the decorative patterns.

The piece was formed from a piece of sheet of metal decorated with stamped impressions, holes, cut slits, and added metal rings. The object is missing at least one-third of its original shape, probably because of mineralization during burial, which has left an irregular edge on one side. One of the preserved edges has been cut into parallel slits to form a comb. The openings between the comb’s teeth are roughly the same width, suggesting that they were cut into the metal sheet with the same tool. However, the teeth are of uneven width, and some of them appear joined, either by corrosion or by metal and were perhaps not completely separated originally. The other original edges are perforated with round holes (c. 1.5 mm in diameter). Most of these holes still contain small round rings (c. 6 mm in diameter) made of fine copper alloy wire. The wire gage is c. 1 mm; the exact gauge is difficult to ascertain due to corrosion accretions. Approximately a dozen of these adjacent rings are fused together and immobilized by corrosion.


Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2011)

Provenance
Walton Brooks McDaniel, New Jersey (?-1943/46), gift; to the Department of the Classics, Harvard University, (1943/46-2012), transfer; to the Harvard Art Museums, 2012.

Note: Walton Brooks McDaniel gave a portion of his collection to the Department of the Classics in 1943 and the rest in 1946. The Collection is named for his late wife, Alice Corinne McDaniel.
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
2012
Object Number
2012.1.42
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 triangular comb, of which two sides are well preserved, is covered with decorative elements. On one face, a row of concentric circles follows the edge of the comb, and there are additional circles within the field. On the other face, a row of smaller concentric circles likewise follows the edge. Inside this line, a band of interlocking triangles forms another triangle, most of which is preserved. The interior of this triangle is broken into two elements by a transverse band of interlocking triangles; above this band are three large concentric circles arranged in a triangle and below it is a line of smaller concentric circles. The teeth of the comb are on the longest preserved edge; some are partially or fully broken. The other preserved edge of the comb is perforated along the edge for the attachment of small rings, of which 11 still remain. The top of the triangular comb is slightly rounded and may have been attached to another element to wear as a pendant.

Comparable copper alloy combs are known from Iron Age Italy with a variety of decorative motifs and may have been used as pendants (1).

NOTES:

1. For a comb, perhaps Roman, with concentric circle decoration similar to the Harvard piece, see Cosmorama pittorico 35 (1836) 275-76, no. 14. For another comb with circular decoration, perhaps used as a pendant, see J. M. Turfa, Catalogue of the Etruscan Gallery of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Philadelphia, 2005) 127, no. 73 (inv. no. MS 1058, early seventh century BCE). For an example with a chain and embossed dome decoration, see A. M. Sgubini Moretti, Veio, Cerveteri, Vulci: Città d’Etruria a confronto, exh. cat., Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia (Rome, 2001) 101, no. I.G.5.19. For undecorated Iron Age copper alloy and ivory combs, likely used as pendants, see P. Orsi, Necropoli e stazioni sicule di transizione 5: Necropoli al Molino della Badia presso Grammichele (Parma, 1905) 24 and 26-27, figs. 23-25. Several copper alloy and bone or ivory pendant combs are published in M. Bernabò Brea, A. Cardarelli, and M. Cremaschi, Le Terramare: La più antica civiltà padana (Milan, 1997) 343, 346-49, 396, 532, 534, and 764; figs. 182.1, 187.17, 190.1-2, 231.57, 296.8-17, and 451.3-4.

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), M180, p. 208 [J. S. Crawford]

Susanne Ebbinghaus, ed., Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, Harvard Art Museum/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2014), p. 58

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 am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu