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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Horse with Long Neck and Tail
Work Type
10th-first half 7th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Iran
Iron Age II-III
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
2.2 x 0.9 x 4.6 cm (7/8 x 3/8 x 1 13/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Cu, 74.26; Sn, 5.6; Pb, 17.68; Zn, 1.88; Fe, 0.19; Ni, 0.07; Ag, 0.16; Sb, 0.14; As, less than 0.10; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.011; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Mixed Copper Alloy
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead, zinc
Other Elements: iron, nickel
K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is dark green with areas of lighter green and black. Thick corrosion layers obscure any surface details. There are deep cracks in these layers, but the object is stable. One rear leg is lost; the other legs are short, but they terminate in what appear to be finished cast surfaces. Three legs have modern drill holes (1 mm in diameter) that may have assisted with a display mount.

The animal’s features are asymmetrical and rather freely formed, and the wax model for this solid casting was probably made directly in the wax rather than cast in a mold. The surface is not preserved adequately enough to determine if any cold working was used in the finishing process.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)


Recorded Ownership History
Louise M. and George E. Bates, Camden, ME (by 1971-1992), gift; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 1992.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Louise M. and George E. Bates
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 figurine, although ill proportioned, is identified with certainty as a horse because of its long neck and tail. A comparable horse figurine in the Godard collection has similar proportions (1). The features on the long, narrow face of the Harvard horse are not defined, although the mouth is open, perhaps indicating the horse has exerted itself though labor or physical activity. The prominent, hollowed-out ears are asymmetrical. Beginning behind the ears, a mane, marked by four small peaks or tufts, extends down the neck. The thick tail also bears vertical ridges mimicking the definition of the mane. On the back is a deep indentation, around which the outline looks raised, probably representing a blanket. A removable rider figurine may originally have been positioned on the horse’s back.

Although the overall form of this horse is crude, because details were added in the metal, it likely was in a satisfactorily finished state and considered acceptable for use. The aesthetic quality of this object, then, was probably not of primary importance; rather, its function, whether physical or symbolic, would have outweighed appearances.

An isolated, mountainous region, Luristan (western Iran) has extensive green valleys that are used today as pastures for horse breeding. Based on the large number of elaborate pieces of ancient copper alloy harness equipment derived from this region, it is evident that horses were culturally significant during the first millennium BCE (2). However, due to limited archaeological survey and excavation, it is not known precisely what role they would have played. Horses are well suited to serve in warfare and as transport for a highly mobile population. They may also have been bred for export as a valuable commodity.


1. See E. de Waele, Bronzes du Luristan et d’Amlash, Publications d’historie de l’art et d’archeologie de l’Université Catholique de Louvain 34 (Louvain-La-Neuve, 1982) 168, no. 256, fig. 138.

2. Neo-Assyrian texts often mention horses obtained from subject territories as royal tribute and booty. For examples from the reigns of Sargon II and Sennacherib, see D. D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia 2 (Chicago, 1927) 11, 23, 29, 76-77, and 116-17. For examples from the reigns of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal, see L. Waterman, Royal Correspondence of the Assyrian Empire (Ann Arbor, 1930-36) 44-51, 160-63, 258-63, and 440-43; letters 61, 63-64, 71, 241-42, 371-76, and 633.

Amy Gansell

Publication History

  • 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), p. 81

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Verification Level

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