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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Belt Buckle
Other Titles
Former Title: Buckle with Clasp in Shape of Palmette
Work Type
5th-6th century
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
Byzantine period, Early
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Cast, lost-wax process
4.45 x 3.18 cm (1 3/4 x 1 1/4 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Brass:
Cu, 76.78; Sn, less than 0.25; Pb, 1.23; Zn, 21.33; Fe, 0.17; Ni, 0.05; Ag, 0.21; Sb, 0.11; As, 0.12; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The patina consists of various green, red, and black corrosion products with brown burial deposits. The object is intact, although it features casting flaws and worn surfaces.

The main part of the attachment was made by lost-wax casting with the designs done in the wax model before casting. The tongue was cast, inserted through the hole, and then worked by hammering to bend the end and secure it on the reverse.

Carol Snow (submitted 2002)

Richard R. Wagner, gift; to the Fogg Museum, 1968.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Richard R. Wagner
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 palmette-shaped plaque ends in a point. The scallops of the design are highly sculptural. The loop is rectangular with saw-tooth edges. Three pairs of circles decorate the middle of the buckle. One of the middle circles was cast as a hole, and the tongue passes through it, while a tab prevents the tongue from slipping through the hole. The reverse is undecorated; in the area of the plaque it is slightly concave. Three loops, one at the tip and two in the middle, protrude from the back and served to affix the buckle to a belt (1).

Each of the three copper alloy Byzantine belt buckles in the Harvard collection consists of two separately cast pieces: a plaque with a loop and a tongue. The tongue was passed through a hole in the plaque and twisted closed. In 1968.93 and 1968.95, indentations in the bars keep the tongues in place. Loops on the reverse of each buckle were sewn to one end of a belt, which was most likely made of leather.

Belts could be used with a variety of garments, including trousers or tunics, and were typically worn by men (2). Some belts were embellished with elaborate decoration and wrought in valuable materials, including enamel, luxury metals, or precious stones. Although the Harvard buckles are of modest material and workmanship, each of these utilitarian objects was enhanced by ornamental designs.

1. Compare O. Wulff, Altchristliche und mittelalterliche byzantinische und italienische Bildwerke 1: Altchristliche Bildwerke (Berlin, 1909) 185, fig. 844, pl. 44.

2. A fourth-century CE wall painting from Silistra, Bulgaria, depicts a household servant carrying his master’s trousers from which hangs a belt with its buckle; see A. Frova, Pittura romana in Bulgaria (Rome, 1943) fig. 9.

Alicia Walker

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

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