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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Seven Conical Beads
Work Type
second half 7th-6th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Macedonia, Olynthos (Macedonia)
Orientalizing period to Archaic
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Cast, lost-wax process
entire strand of 7 beads: 35 cm (13 3/4 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Cu, 84.31; Sn, 9.69; Pb, 5.92; Zn, 0.002; Fe, 0.01; Ni, 0.03; Ag, 0.02; Sb, less than 0.02; As, less than 0.10; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.021; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Leaded Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead
Other Elements: iron
Comments: All of these beads have high surface zinc, but no zinc was found by Riederer and analysis of the burr next to the drill hole on bead 1960.645.5 reveals no zinc.
K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina on all of these beads is a dark brownish black, although on some a coppery metallic sheen is visible.

Each bead was cast, probably by the lost-wax method, in one piece over a clay core that was possibly formed over a rod to create the central opening. Although the internal surface is difficult to examine, the visible remains of the clay core inside the thicker areas in the shorter beads suggests that the bulging belly of the beads was also formed over a clay core and is thus not solid metal. Although the regular shapes appear to suggest that they were shaped on a lathe or with a template, this does not seem to have been the case: the beads all have relatively irregular profiles. It is also not clear that they were all originally from the same workshop. Indeed, close examination reveals differences in the way shapes are formed. Some have crisper transitions between sections (e.g., 1960.645.1, 1960.645.2, and 1960.645.6), a few seem to have mold lines, and a number of them are faceted from filing (e.g., 1960.645.2, 1960.645.4, 1960.645.5, and 1960.645.6). Whether some of the filing was done post-excavation is open to question, but certainly some of it is original. None of the beads bears visible signs of cuprite or deep corrosion, but this could be misleading. In fact, most if not all of them were electrochemically stripped. The tell-tale rough surface with pitting is clearly visible on a few of the beads—most notably 1960.645.1 and 1960.645.6. Comparison of the results of chemical and surface analyses of the alloy composition of bead 1960.645.6 (the only one that was sampled) also shows that the surface was enriched with zinc, no doubt in the course of the electrochemical treatment.

Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2012)

Greek Government, gift; to David M. Robinson, Baltimore, MD, (by 1941), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1960.

Nos. 1-5 from Grave 516, Riverside Cemetery, Olynthos.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of David M. Robinson
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
These seven biconical beads have sharp fin-like reels at the ends; in three cases, there are sharp discs subdividing each section. They are typical of Macedonian and the southern Balkans (1). The largest bead (1960.645.1) has a hole between the central part and one of the inner reels, which is probably a casting flaw. The beads are similar to each other in overall shape and surface patina; five come from the same context, Grave 516 in the Riverside Cemetery at Olynthus.


1. See D. M. Robinson, Metal and Minor Miscellaneous Finds, an Original Contribution to Greek Life, Excavations at Olynthus 10 (Baltimore, 1941) 57-58 (Type IIIa), nos. 68-93, pls. 8-9; J. Bouzek, Graeco-Macedonian Bronzes, Acta Universitatis Carolinae Philosophica et Historica Monographia 49 (Prague, 1974) 101-103 and 105-13, figs. 32-35 (for larger beads with fin-like reels between the middle and ends); and I. Kilian-Dirlmeier, Kleinfunde aus dem Athena Itonia-Heiligtum bei Philia (Thessalien) (Mainz, 2002) 102, nos. 1573-74 and 1578-84, pl. 97 (dated to the Archaic period, perhaps as late as 500 BCE).

David G. Mitten

Publication History

David Moore Robinson, Excavations at Olynthus, The Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD, 1941), p. 58-58, pls. 8-9, figs. 88, 150.

Fogg Art Museum, The David Moore Robinson Bequest of Classical Art and Antiquities, A Special Exhibition, exh. cat., Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, 1961), p. 43, no. 395.

Katherine Eremin and Josef Riederer, "Analytical Approaches to Ancient Bronzes", Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, ed. Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 64-91, pp. 76-77, fig. 3.6.

Susanne Ebbinghaus, ed., Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, Harvard Art Museum/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2014), pp. 76-77, 79, fig. 3.6

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

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