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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Double Probe or Applicator
Other Titles
Alternate Title: knife, arrow pointed ornament, key
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
medical instrument
1st-3rd century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Antioch (Syria)
Find Spot: Middle East, Türkiye (Turkey)
Roman Imperial period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Copper alloy
Cast, lost-wax process
12.6 cm, 0.5 cm (4 15/16 in., 3/16 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The patina has been stripped to a metallic brown and black. The object is intact. The instrument was made by lost-wax casting.

Carol Snow (submitted 2002)


Recorded Ownership History
Excavated from Antioch (no. C253-U730) (Turkey, Hatay) by the Syrian Department of Antiquities (later the Hatay government) and the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and Its Vicinity, (1935-1939), dispersed; to Fogg Art Museum, 1940.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and its Vicinity
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 object has a molded grip and a long, smooth oblong probe at each end of the fairly straight and smooth shaft. The grip molding consists of three decorative beads with a single ring collar on either end of the grouping. This is an example of a double probe, which is also known as a dipyrene (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. Probes had various uses and came in many types, some with scoops on the end (ligulae) or with a flatted end (spatulae), others with olivary probes on both ends. The probe ends could be used for searching wounds or applying medicines (3). The probes might also have been used for grinding and mixing cosmetics (4).


1. Compare the dipyrene in the set of Roman medical instruments in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, inv. no. 2005.333. See also J. Kirkup, The Evolution of Surgical Instruments: An Illustrated History from Ancient Times to the Twentieth Century (Novato, 2006) 165; and J. S. Milne, Surgical Instruments in Greek and Roman Times (New York, 1907) 57-58, pl. 11.1.

2. Milne 1907 (supra 1) 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. Michaelides 1984 (supra 2) 315-32, esp. 324-25.

4. L. J. Bliquez, Roman Surgical Instruments and Other Minor Objects in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (Mainz, 1994) 52.

David Smart

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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