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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Other Titles
Former Title: Hairpin
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
6.3 cm, 0.3 cm, 0.3 cm (2 1/2 in., 1/8 in., 1/8 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The patina is a stripped metallic brown. The end of the shaft is broken off. The implement was made by casting, and there was some further working to form the shaft.

Carol Snow (submitted 2002)


Recorded Ownership History
Excavated from Antioch (no. C497-S622) (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 the 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 instrument has a short, round shaft with a small olivary tip at one end. The rest of the shaft is missing and may have terminated in one of many tools, such as a ligula, spatula, or pin (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 probe fragments in E. Künzl, Medizinische Instrumente aus Sepulkralfunden der römischen Kaiserzeit (Cologne, 1983) 49 and 75, figs. 17.5 and 51.19.

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. 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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