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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Other Titles
Former Title: Spoon
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
medical instrument
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
14.1 x 1.1 cm (5 9/16 x 7/16 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The patina consists of a pale green corrosion with red cuprite and thick grayish encrustations. This piece is missing most of its bowl.

The cyathiscomele was made by casting the general shape with some possible working to further shape the spoon end 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 long, straight shaft has a blunt, rounded tip, while the other end is a bowl that is broken and missing approximately half of its original shape (1). At the end of the shaft closest to the bowl, a summarily executed diamond-shaped decoration is framed by two thin, ribbed collars, with three collars between the decoration and the bowl and two below the decoration. Another collar is set just below the bowl.

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 cyathiscomele is a type of scoop probe, with a spoon terminal at one end and a probe at the other, used for stirring and applying medicines, among other uses, including cosmetic (3).


1. Compare E. Künzl, Medizinische Instrumente aus Sepulkralfunden der römischen Kaiserzeit (Cologne, 1983) 94, fig. 75.14.

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) 61-63; Michaelides 1984 (supra 2) 326; and R. Jackson and S. La Niece, “A Set of Roman Medical Instruments from Italy,” Britannia 17 (1986): 119-67, esp. 158.

David Smart

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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