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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Ritual Implements
Work Type
8th-5th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Argolis, Heraion (Argolis)
Geometric period to Classical
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Cast, lost-wax process
4 x 0.8 cm (1 9/16 x 5/16 in.)
30.9 g
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 92.3; Sn, 7.08; Pb, less than 0.025; Zn, 0.01; Fe, 0.45; Ni, 0.02; Ag, 0.06; Sb, 0.08; As, less than 0.10; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The patina of 1977.216.2123.13 is green but is mostly covered with brown burial accretions. Small spots of the surface are well preserved, but most are very rough with corrosion products and accretions

Because of their heavy weight, the rings (1895.202.A, 1895.202.C, 1920.44.219, and 1977.216.2123.13) appear to have been cast. However, there is no physical evidence of casting. All of these rings are at least slightly non-circular, especially 1977.216.2123.13 and 1895.202.C, the two heavier rings. The gentle ridges on these four rings are carefully planned as subtle decorative elements, each ring with a slightly different profile of facets. The ridges, although smooth, show slight irregularities. These seem more consistent with finishing the wax or pre-wax model by turning rather than cutting the metal ring with a turning process.

Henry Lie (submitted 2002)

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Department of the Classics, Harvard University, deposited by Professor J. M. Paton
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
Thick, cast rings of varying sizes were common offerings in Greek sanctuaries during the later Geometric and Archaic periods. These heavy rings cannot be explained as finger rings or bracelets, nor do the find contexts suggest other practical functions. When found in burial contexts, they do not form part of the adornment of the dead. Like the oversized dress pins of the Geometric period (compare 1947.33.4), the rings appear to have been deposited in sanctuaries and graves for their metal value. It has been suggested that they constituted a pre-monetary form of currency (1). The rings in the Harvard collection do not confirm the standardized ratio of diameter to weight assumed in the relevant study. As their findspots are not known, it cannot be excluded that the one or the other was in fact a ring handle or part of a buckle. Some credibility may be given to their reported provenance from the Argive Heraeum, since three out of the four rings were presented to the museum by family members of one of the Heraeum excavators (2).

Slightly convex on the inside, this heavy ring is biconical on the outside. It is heavily corroded and encrusted with earth.


1. See C. Waldstein, ed., The Argive Heraeum 1 (Boston, 1902) 61-62; and P. Dakoronia, “Rings – Pre-Monetary Forms of the Geometric Period,” Archaiologik­ē Ephēmeris 1989: 115-20 [in Greek].

2. Compare the “innumerable” rings excavated at the Argive Heraeum published by H. F. de Cou, “The Bronzes of the Argive Heraeum,” in The Argive Heraeum 2, ed. C. Waldstein (Boston, 1905) 191-332, esp. 251-63, nos. 975-1524, pls. 90-91.

Susanne Ebbinghaus

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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