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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Female Votive Statuette
Work Type
statuette, sculpture
late 5th-2nd century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Hispania
Iron Age
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
6.5 cm (2 9/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Cu, 65.63; Sn, 10.75; Pb, 22.82; Zn, 0.002; Fe, 0.01; Ni, 0.02; Ag, 0.18; Sb, 0.43; As, 0.17; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001

J. Riederer

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

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina features extensive brown burial deposits over predominantly green corrosion with some red. The figure is missing the lower portion of its proper right arm. The surface is not well preserved. The figure is a solid cast produced by the lost-wax process, with the details probably created in the wax model before casting.

Carol Snow (submitted 2002)

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Anonymous Gift
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 female offerant, like 1933.133, wears a tall conical headdress covered by a long cloak or veil that falls in an arrowhead-shape down her back (1). A decorative band or fringe of hair is visible on her brow below the headdress. She also wears a prominent circular disc, probably representing a tymphanum, on each side of the head and a simple necklace around her neck (2). Her facial features are prominent and bulging. Her eyes are unnaturally large and ringed with clearly modeled lids; her nose is prominent and triangular; and her mouth appears to be very wide, although it may simply have been damaged. Her neck is short and round. She wears a long, form-fitting, short-sleeved dress. It is block-like and featureless except for two raised bands that follow the circumference of the hem. The figure wears a sash over her left shoulder that extends down under her right arm. Her outstretched left forearm is unnaturally large, probably to emphasize its votive function. The hand is held palm upward. Although it is now empty, the hand likely once held a small model of an offering; this is supported by the fact that the palm appears to have been made flatter between the fingers and thumb. Her feet are separated, with toes faintly indicated. The back is featureless except for the hem of the dress.

Thousands of small, anthropomorphic copper alloy statuettes and anatomical votives have been recovered from remote sanctuary sites in south-central Spain, particularly Collado de los Jardines and Castellar de Santisteban, but it is not certain to which god or gods they were dedicated (3). Many of the statuettes depict individuals, some of whom are represented in poses of prayer or offering (4). Some are very abstract and schematically rendered, while others wear identifiable contemporary clothing (5). In spite of the similarity of the votives, there is nothing to indicate that the intention behind each offering was the same.


1. Compare L. Prados Torreira, Exvotos ibericos de bronce del Museo Arqueologico Nacional (Madrid, 1992) 233, nos. 738-39; and Iberian Antiquities from the Collection of Leon Levy and Shelby White, exh. cat., The Spanish Institute, (New York, 1993) 44-45, no. 11.

2. The first-century BCE geographer Strabo describes the large disc-like decorations as “drums” (tymphanum) that spiral outward, increasing in height and width, covering part of the head down to the ears. (Strabo, 3.4.17). He mentions that some of the women twist their hair around a rod and cover it in a black veil, which seems to correspond to the pointed headdresses seen on this statuette and 1933.133. Compare the large and elaborate wheel-like discs on the side of the head and pointed headdress of the stone bust known as the Lady of Elche (Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid, inv. no. 1971/10/1) with these details on the two Harvard statuettes. See also the Iberian stone heads from sanctuary at Cerro de los Santos with high pointed headdresses similar to Harvard’s bronzes in the Museo de Albacete, inv. nos. DE07515 and CE04302; and the Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid, inv. nos. 3513 and 7510. For a comparison of bronze votives from Despeñaperros and stone sculptures, see H. Sandars, “Pre-Roman Bronze Votive Offerings from Despeñaperros, in Sierra Morena, Spain,” Archaeologia, or Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity 10 (1906) 69-92.

3. See F. Álvarez-Ossorio, Bronces ibéricos o hispánicos del Museo Arqueológico Nacional (Madrid, 1935) 20-27; id., Catálogo de los exvotos de bronce ibéricos (Madrid, 1941); L. Prados Torreira, “Los exvotos anatomicos del santuario iberico de Collado de los Jardines (Sta. Elena, Jaén),” Trabajos de prehistoria 48 (1991): 313-32; ead. 1992 (supra 1); ead., “Los santuarios ibéricos: Apuntes para el desarrollo de una arqueología del culto,” Trabajos de prehistoria 51.1 (1994): 127-40; and G. Nicolini et al., El santuario ibérico de Castellar, Jaén: Intervenciones arqueológicas 1966-1991 (Seville, 2004) 160-64.

4. For discussions of the statuettes’ poses and gestures, see G. Nicolini, “Gestes et attitudes cultuels des figurines de bronze ibériques,” Mélanges de la Casa de Velázquez 4 (1968): 27-50; and C. Rueda Galán, “La mujer sacralizada: La presencia de las mujeres en los santuarios (lectura desde los exvotos de bronce iberos),” Complutum 18 (2007): 227-35.

5. See, for example, this piece or 1933.134.

Lisa M. Anderson

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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