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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Scoop Probe
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Ligula
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
early 3rd-mid 7th century
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Mesopotamia
Find Spot: Middle East, Iraq
Sasanian period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Copper alloy
Cast, lost-wax process
11.5 x 1 cm, 0.4 cm (4 1/2 x 3/8 in., 3/16 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The patina is grayish green. The object exhibits small surface losses but is otherwise intact. The scoop was made by casting the rough shape and then working to further shape it and finish the surface.

Carol Snow (submitted 2002)

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of The American Institute for Persian Art and Archaeology, from the Holmes Expedition to Kish
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
The shaft of this instrument is relatively thick and smooth; it is slightly bent. The round shaft becomes square just before the bowl and has regular incisions. The opposite end is blunt. Two similar scoops set on relatively short shafts published from a French private collection are said to be from Iran or Syria (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. Scoop probes could be used for stirring and applying medicines, cleaning ears or other, including cosmetic, uses (3).


1. G. Gaboriau, Outils de la santé et de médecine d’autrefois (Le Mans, 2003) 26. For another instrument that also swells near the bowl, see ibid., 29.

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) 61-68; Michaelides 1984 (supra 2) 325-36; R. Jackson and S. La Niece, “A Set of Roman Medical Instruments from Italy,” Britannia 17 (1986): 119-67, esp. 157-58.

David Smart

Subjects and Contexts

  • Roman Domestic Art
  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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