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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Cylindrical Container
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
1st-3rd century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
Roman Imperial period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Copper alloy
overall: 2.3 x 2.7 cm (7/8 x 1 1/16 in.)
lid: 1 x 2.7 cm (3/8 x 1 1/16 in.)
base: 2.2 x 2.4 cm (7/8 x 15/16 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: This small cylindrical box was fashioned from two pieces of hammered-out metal. The thickness of the metal is quite even (4 mm). The box is encrusted with dark brown and tan burial accretions over a mottled green patina. The inside is mostly mottled green with some burial accretions. Both the lid and the bottom are cracked and have sustained losses. The lid has a crack running from the top edge down to the rim, and another smaller crack on the rim; the box has one loss that extends about halfway down from the top rim.

Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2012)

Miss Elizabeth Gaskell Norton, Boston, MA and Miss Margaret Norton, Cambridge, MA (by 1920), gift; to the Fogg Art Museum, 1920.

Note: The Misses Norton were daughters of Charles Elliot Norton (1827-1908).
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of the Misses Norton
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 lid of this small cylindrical box still fits tightly to the top of the container. There is a knob-like feature on one side of the lid, which might have been used in assisting the opening of the small box. A small hole is visible on the top of the lid, near this knob. There is a larger hole on the box itself that begins at its lip and continues across one-fourth of its length.

Copper alloy cylindrical tubes with caps on one end could have been used to hold medical instruments or medicines. The longer tubes, generally around 18 cm long, are considered more likely to have held the instruments and the smaller to have held the medicines (1).


1. J. S. Milne, Surgical Instruments in Greek and Roman Times (Oxford, 1907) 169-71; D. Michaelides, “A Roman Surgeon’s Tomb from Nea Paphos,” Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus, 1984: 315-32, esp. 330-31; R. Jackson and S. La Niece, “A Set of Roman Medical Instruments from Italy,” Britannia 17 (1986): 119-67, esp. 158-59; and L. J. Bliquez, Roman Surgical Instruments and Other Minor Objects in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (Mainz, 1994) 66-68.

David Smart

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at