Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Smiting Male
Other Titles
Former Title: Standing Male Figure
Work Type
statuette, sculpture
2nd Millennium BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Levant
Bronze Age
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Leaded copper
Cast, lost-wax process
8.9 x 4.1 x 3.2 cm (3 1/2 x 1 5/8 x 1 1/4 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Copper:
Cu, 94.64; Sn, 1.58; Pb, 3.4; Zn, 0.004; Fe, less than 0.01; Ni, 0.08; Ag, 0.03; Sb, less than 0.05; As, 0.27; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.01; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The patina is green with many spots of underlying red visible. There are areas of a rough, black burial accretion and several areas of a white accretion, which could also be from burial. The legs are broken off at the thighs and are lost. The surface is in fair condition, but little surface detail is visible. The irregular texture of the face appears to be a casting flaw.

The figure is solid cast, probably from a model made by direct work in wax. The hollows for the eyes and the holes in the hands are too poorly preserved to characterize their manufacture. A spherical opening in the break at the proper left leg is a large flaw caused by trapped air, which would have made this element weak and prone to breakage.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)

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
Broken just below the hips, the remaining portion of this figurine preserves the characteristic body shift from a primarily frontal torso to sideways-oriented legs. The round, tubular body displays no musculature and supports the head on a long, thick neck. The figure wears a high conical headdress, the base of which merges seamlessly into the face. Two small, deep holes mark the eyes, and the ears are represented by quasi-triangular flaps that stick out slightly. The proper left side of the face is marred by a deep gouge. The arms are posed in the characteristic smiting position. They are flattened with no differentiation between arm and hand; the ends are pierced. The high, rounded headgear is reminiscent of O. Negbi’s “Byblo-Egyptian” group and H. Seeden’s Group VII, which include the numerous early second millennium copper alloy figurines found buried in hoards throughout the sacred temple area at Byblos on the coast of Lebanon (1). Seeden argues that the smiting position starts in the early part of the second millennium BCE but is primarily to be associated with the Late Bronze Age, and this piece may be related to several of the loose finds at Byblos that have been dated to the later part of the second millennium (2).

The geographical area of the Levant, comprising the regions of present-day Israel, Lebanon, western Syria, and south-central Turkey, produced an extraordinary number of small copper alloy figurines from the end of the third millennium into the beginning of the first millennium BCE (3). Most of these figurines depict a standing male figure with left foot advancing and right arm raised in a position of smiting (4). Often the hands are pierced with holes to hold weapons or armor. These separate elements are preserved in a few examples, the most spectacular being a warrior holding a spear and shield found in a late thirteenth or early twelfth century BCE building at Enkomi on Cyprus (5). The figurines have a wide distribution, with examples found as far away as Greece, but the majority is concentrated along the Mediterranean coast of the Levant (6).

While the figurines share a common conceptual underpinning, the actual forms and styles of the small copper alloys display a remarkable range of diversity. In general, they appear to move along a spectrum from those that include a high degree of Egyptianizing elements, presumably produced in regions closer to Egypt, to those showing stronger affinities with the Hittite artistic tradition of central Turkey. Such stylistic features are evident in the shape and type of the tall crown, the form of the short skirt or kilt, and the proportions of the body. The basic iconography of the smiting figure is derived from the Egyptian image of Pharaoh defeating his enemies; yet, there is no exact parallel in Egypt, indicating a peculiarly Levantine iconographic conception. The figure most likely represents a deity, sometimes identified as either Baal or Reshep, two West Semitic gods. Although no definitive evidence exists to support these attributions, some examples have horns on their headdresses, which are a Near Eastern attribute of divinity (7). Where archaeological contexts are sufficiently well preserved, the figurines are clearly associated with cultic spaces. The largest group of excavated figurines comes from several locations in the temple complex at Byblos on the Lebanese coast, while another set was excavated in a Late Bronze Age temple complex at Kamid el-Loz in inland Lebanon (8). The precise dating of the figurines remains fraught for several reasons. First, many were hoarded and only buried well after their date of manufacture. Second, there is only poor information available, if there is any at all, on the provenience of a large portion of the figurines in museum collections. Finally, while the overall conception of the figurines unites them as a group, the diversity of individual features and styles often makes stylistic comparisons difficult.


1. O. Negbi, Canaanite Gods in Metal: An Archaeological Study of Ancient Syro-Palestinian Figurines (Tel Aviv, 1976) 22-24; and H. Seeden, The Standing Armed Figurines in the Levant, Prähistorische Bronzefunde 1.1 (Munich, 1980) 36-38.

2. Ibid., 91-94.

3. For Levantine copper alloy figurines in general, see Negbi 1976 (supra 1); and P. R. S. Moorey and S. Fleming, “Problems in the Study of the Anthropomorphic Metal Statuary from Syro-Palestine Before 330 B.C.,” Levant 16 (1984): 67-90.

4. For the smiting copper alloy figurines, see Seeden 1980 (supra 1); D. Collon, “The Smiting God: A Study of a Bronze in the Pomerance Collection in New York,” Levant 4 (1972): 111-34; and ead., “Note on ‘A Bronze in the Pomerance Collection, New York,’” Levant 5 (1973): 133.

5. J.-C. Courtois, J. Lagarce, and E. Lagarce, Enkomi et le bronze récent à Chypre (Nicosia, 1986) pl. 18.4.

6. For distribution maps, see Seeden 1980 (supra 1) pls. 118-19.

7. For a summary of problems relating to the identity of Levantine copper alloy statuettes, see Moorey and Fleming 1984 (supra 3) 78-80.

8. For the Byblos copper alloy statuette hoards, see Seeden 1980 (supra 1) 36-102. For the Kamid el-Loz examples, see H. Kühne, “Die Bronzestatuetten aus dem ‘spätbronzezeitlichen’ Tempel,” in Bericht über die Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen in Kamid el-Loz in den Jahren 1968 bis 1970, ed. R. Hachmann, Saarbrücker Beiträge zur Altertumskunde 22 (Bonn, 1980) 63-81. For a general discussion of context for the anthropomorphic statuettes, see Moorey and Fleming 1984 (supra 3) 76-77.

Marian Feldman

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

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