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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Zoomorphic Lock Lid
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Locket for Amulet Hung From Horse
Alternate Title: padlock lid
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
3rd-4th century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
Roman Imperial period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Mixed copper alloy
Cast, lost-wax process
4.4 x 2.9 x 1.8 cm (1 3/4 x 1 1/8 x 11/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Mixed Copper Alloy:
Cu, 80.8; Sn, 3.54; Pb, 12.55; Zn, 2.22; Fe, 0.32; Ni, 0.1; Ag, 0.16; Sb, 0.08; As, 0.22; 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 is black and brown, with several small areas of green. Reddish-brown burial accretions are also present. The surface shows wear but is well preserved. It does not show normal evidence of long-term burial.

The hollowed backside is generally shaped as a hemisphere and does not reflect the shapes of the front surface. It could be that wax was pressed into a mold to produce the front relief; if so, the quantity was generous, making the casting thick. It is also possible that the design was modeled directly in the wax. The tang at the top shows the remains of a pin (1.5 mm), which appears to have been a hinge point for the lid. The tang at the back bottom may have helped to locate or secure this hinged lid to some type of container. The slotted hole at the proper right tang is cast, not cut, and its difference from the tang at the proper left appears to be intentional, not an accident of casting. The punch marks and incised lines were probably formed or enhanced by cold working.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)


Recorded Ownership History
Harry J. Denberg, New York, NY (by 1969), gift; to the Fogg Art Museum, 1969.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Harry J. Denberg
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
This diamond-shaped hollow padlock lid is in the shape of a horned ram’s head (1). At the top and below the head are holes, now filled, for hinges and fastenings. There is a rectangular hole on the left side near the horns and a grooved tab on the right. Small, circular punch marks indicate wool on the head, the pupils of the eyes, and form the border between the head and the lid. Grooves on the horns represent ridges.

The mask lids of this type of padlock covered the keyhole; when locked, a swinging latch was secured to the lower portion of the lock (2). A findspot is known for only a few examples, and these suggest that the use of the locks may have been concentrated in the eastern areas of the Roman Empire (3).


1. For other padlock covers depicting ram’s heads, see H. Klumbach, “Neue Vorhängeschlösser mit Maskendeckel,” Jahrbuch des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz 12 (1965): 74-83, esp. 76-77, nos. 5-7, pl. 18. Compare similar pieces depicting female heads in H. Schönberger, “Zwei weitere römische Vorhängeschlösser mit Maskendeckel,” Jahrbuch des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz 5 (1958): 253-58; E. Pfeiffer-Belli, Schlüssel und Schloss: Schönheit, Form und Tecknik im Wandel der Zeiten aufgezeigt an der Sammlung Heinrich Pankofer (Munich, 1973) 39; and E. De Waele, Bronzes du Luristan et d’Amlash: Ancienne collection Godard, Publications d’histoire de l’art et d’archéologie de l’Université Catholique de Louvain 34 (Louvain-la-Neuve, 1982) 242-43, no. 404, fig. 222.

2. For diagrams of how locks of this type functioned, see Klumbach 1965 (supra 1) figs. 1-2; and E. Schmidt, Römische Kleinfunde aus Burghöfe 1: Figürliche Bronzen und Schmuck (Rahden, 2000) 27-28, no. 80, pls. 6 and 13.

3. Klumbach 1965 (supra 1) 81; and Á. Salamon, “Pannonische Vorhängeschlösser mit Maskendeckel,” Folia archaeologica 10 (1958): 67-76, esp. 76.

David Smart and Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

  • Jerry Slocum and Dic Sonneveld, Romano-Celtic Mask Puzzle Padlocks: A Study of their Origin, Design, Technology and Security, Archaeopress Publishing Ltd. (Oxford, 2017), p. 90, appendix 1, no. JF-07, ill.

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes
  • Roman Domestic Art

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