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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Other Titles
Former Title: Tool
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
1st-4th century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
Roman Imperial period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Copper alloy
13 x 5.2 cm (5 1/8 x 2 1/16 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The patina is black with areas of encrustation. The object appears to be intact.

The spatula was made by casting the general shape, with some possible working to further shape the flat end and finish the surface.

Carol Snow (submitted 2002)

Formerly in the collection of the Peabody Museum of Harvard University, no. 16.447.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, 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 slender, lancet-type spatula has a tongue that tapers to a gently rounded blunt tip. The juncture of the tongue and shaft is decorated with five raised rings. The shaft tapers on the end opposite the tongue into a sharp point (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 spatula is a probe with one flattened, spatula-shaped end and a probe on the other used for stirring and applying medicines, among other uses (3). Spatulae are among the most common instrument types (4).


1. Compare a similar instrument in L. J. Bliquez, Roman Surgical Instruments and Other Minor Objects in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (Mainz 1994) 140, no. 129; and id., “Two Lists of Greek Surgical Instruments and the State of Surgery in Byzantine Times,” Symposium on Byzantine Medicine, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 38 (1984): 187-204, esp. 187-88 and 193, fig. 3.

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) 58-61; Michaelides 1984 (supra 2) 325-26; and R. Jackson and S. La Niece, “A Set of Roman Medical Instruments from Italy,” Britannia 17 (1986): 119-67, esp. 158.

4. Bliquez 1994 (supra 1) 46-47.

David Smart

Subjects and Contexts

Roman Domestic Art

Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

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