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A hollow crescent shaped piece of dark metal with a triangular piece of the same metal extending from the left terminus.

This is a hollow crescent shaped piece of dark metal with mottled green discoloration on the surface. On the right terminus of the crescent shape is a small, traingular protrusion, extending from the point. On the right terminus there are two very small globular protrusions just above the point of the crescent. There are horizontal, parallel lines across the entire crescent shape.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Leech Fibula
Work Type
fibula, pin
late 8th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, North Central Italy
Orientalizing period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Cast, lost-wax process
5.6 x 8.9 cm (2 3/16 x 3 1/2 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Point 1: Cu, 82.28; Sn, 12.81; Pb, 2.37; Zn, 0.09; Fe, 0.48; Ni, 0.19; Ag, 0.15; Sb, 0.8; As, 0.51; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.03; Au, 0.283; Cd, less than 0.001
Point 2: Cu, 49.03; Sn, 44.3; Pb, 3.1; Zn, 0.266; Fe, 0.5; Ni, 0.23; Ag, 0.16; Sb, 1.35; As, 1.02; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.042; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Point 3: Cu, 76.27; Sn, 19.39; Pb, 1.64; Zn, 0.195; Fe, 0.61; Ni, 0.16; Ag, 0.13; Sb, 0.75; As, 0.82; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.031; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001

J. Riederer

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, nickel, silver, antimony, arsenic

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina consists of a lustrous, variegated green and black surface with brown encrustations in low areas. Patches of a top crust of corrosion with fibrous-looking pseudomorphs are present mostly on the underside and in a few isolated places on the exterior. Iron corrosion is present at the end of the bow where the spring used to be and inside the clasp. The pin is also missing, but the fibula has iron corrosion on the extant terminals, which is possibly an indication that the pin and spring were iron.

The bow is hollow and was cast with a small rectangular hole on the top exterior and a larger rectangular hole on the underside, which were probably created by core pins. There are casting flaws on the bow, three of which have ancient copper alloy plugs. The largest of these flaws is irregularly shaped, with edges slightly beveled inward to fit the plug snugly. It was filled by pouring molten metal into the hole. Excess metal from this pour is visible in the interior of the bow and reveals the rectangular imprint of the core pin that was then removed. The other two plugs are round; the one near the large plug is 2.5 mm in diameter, and the other is 4 mm in diameter. The larger round plug and the large fill both have the same engraved design of lines and pointillé surround them as the surrounding metal. This indicates that the surface design was made after casting, probably by engraving the lines and punching the dots. All of these repair plugs for casting flaws were clearly done in antiquity. The iron corrosion at the spring end of the bow and within the clasp may be the remains of an iron pin used to fasten the fibula.

Carol Snow (submitted 2002)

Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: Etruscan or Italic


Recorded Ownership History
Mrs. Edward Holmes Jackson Jr., Topsfield, MA, (by 1952), gift: to the Fogg Museum.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Mrs. Edward Jackson Holmes
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 large, hollow bow has several distinct zones of decoration (1). At each end of the bow is a 2-cm zone of alternating raised and lowered horizontal bands. Similar bands with a vertical orientation cover the sides of the middle section of the bow. The spine of the bow is decorated by a 2-cm wide section consisting of six rows of herringbone pattern bordered at the top and the bottom by three raised bands. Many areas throughout the decoration bear rows of very fine dots (pointillé). The underside is undecorated. Only the bow and catchplate are preserved; the spring and pin are lost. Plugs of circular, rectangular, and irregular shape are present on the bow, and the surface decoration continues from the main body across these shapes. The plugs, which are seen on other leech fibulae, seem to patch the areas where the core material was removed from the interior (2).


1. Compare H. Donder, Die Fibeln, Katalog der Sammlung antiker Kleinkunst des Archäologischen Instituts der Universität Heidelberg 3.2 (Mainz, 1994) 43-49, no. 22, pl. 4; and A. M. Bietti Sestieri and E. Macnamara, Prehistoric Metal Artefacts from Italy (3500-720 BC) in the British Museum (London, 2007) 189 (fibula type 24), no. 573, pl. 126.

2. For other fibulae with plugs, see A. Naso, I bronzi etruschi e italici del Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Kataloge vor- und frühgeschichtlicher Altertümer 33 (Mainz, 2003) 250, no. 449, fig. 149; J. M. Turfa, Catalogue of the Etruscan Gallery of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Philadelphia, 2005) 94, no. 19; and Bietti Sestieri and Macnamara 2007 (supra 1) nos. 573 and 585, pls. 126 and 128.

Lisa M. Anderson

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 2540 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 07/18/2018 - 11/15/2018

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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