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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Head of a Boar
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Wolf's Head Helmet
Tools and Equipment
6th-5th century BCE with modern additions
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Etruria
Archaic period to Classical
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Cast and hammered
15.3 x 18.6 x 38.2 cm (6 x 7 5/16 x 15 1/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: Boar head
XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, arsenic

Modern fragments
XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, zinc, iron
Comments: These pieces were part of an old repair and were removed from the object. The lead content is lower than that in ancient pieces. Multiple modern pieces were tested.

Ancient fragments
XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, arsenic
Comments: These pieces were part of an old repair and were removed from the object. Multiple ancient pieces were tested.

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is green and has areas of black and underlying areas of red. The top components of the nose and the hemispherical dome have areas of rough, raised green corrosion products and brown burial accretions.

Numerous large losses are the result of corrosion and breaks in the brittle, mineralized metal. There are numerous ancient repairs, including the flaps of metal folded and riveted around cracks on the lower edge of the hemispherical dome and the irregular shapes of metal riveted to the dome where it meets the lower jaw on both sides. The cast teeth are modern additions. They are not life casts and were irregularly modeled directly in wax to fit the shapes of the sheet metal assembly that form the jaw and top portions of the mouth. A modern sheet-copper framework in the top and bottom sections of the mouth and a patinated but modern ridged palette-shape on the top of the mouth both help to support weight of these teeth. Many of the rivets are ancient, but some have been replaced with modern copper pins or brass screws.

The hemispherical dome was raised by hammering, and its irregular thickness ranges from 0.3 to 0.7 mm. The top and snout sections of the nose have the same thickness as the dome, which in neither case was a measurement error caused by the rough corrosion products on the surface of these components. The other parts of the object are also raised by hammering but are generally thinner (2.0 to 4.0 mm). They form the bottom exterior and interior surfaces of the mouth, the narrow strips at the lower edges of the top of the mouth, and the repair reinforcements previously mentioned. A serrated sheet inserted in the folded and riveted front section of the nose is less deeply corroded than the snout but appears to be ancient. The serrations may depict teeth, and it is possible that similar teeth once decorated the other portions of the mouth. The remains of two oval repoussé depressions on the front of the dome depict eyes. No inlay or added material is visible in the eyes.

Prior to the 1998 conservation treatment of this object, numerous additional fragments, many of them modern, were joined to the object and completed many of the losses to the original components. These fragments greatly confused the question of what was original as well as what the original object looked like. They were removed and stored separately from other loose fragments that are ancient but either do not belong to this object or cannot be properly fitted to it. Future work on the object could involve completely removing the replacement teeth. It is also possible that the entire lower jaw is a modern fabrication from ancient sheets of metal.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Museum Collection
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 unusual piece was found in the collection and accessioned in 1964, but nothing is known about how it came to be at Harvard (1). Three groups of objects are covered by this accession number: the main piece as assembled, a box of “ancient” fragments, and a box of “modern” fragments. The fragments were removed from the structure in 1998 (2). The main difference between the groups of fragments is a thick, white coating on the pieces labeled as modern. The group of modern fragments consists of twenty large fragments, all of which are slightly curved. The group of fragments designated as ancient consists of four large fragments. One is held together with tape, another is riveted together from several parts, and the other two have holes. One ancient rivet is kept in a vial, and there are dozens of smaller fragments.

The main structure of the object consists of sheet metal riveted to a substructure with cast teeth added. The back of the piece seems to form a hemispherical dome, perhaps replicating the top of a head, although it is currently open. Portions of what may be large, elliptical eyes in relief are visible on the edges of the opening, which situates the eyes more on top of the head than on the sides, although it is possible that the dome had been malformed after manufacture. The hemispherical dome is connected to structures forming the long snout of a carnivore. The cast teeth, with large upper and lower canines, do not correspond to any known mammal.

Although this object has been described previously as a helmet, perhaps used as part of a ritual, the interpretation of the object as a helmet depends greatly on the modern reconstruction (3). The closest comparanda for the upper part of the head are boar-head protomes on Etruscan chariots, which consist of the top section of boar heads, including the snout, eyes, ears, and sometimes crests, but not the lower jaws (4). These protomes covered the draft poles of chariots at the juncture of the pole and the main body of the chariot. It is possible that the eyes, top of the snout, and parts of the upper dome are ancient pieces from an Etruscan chariot, while other sections, such as the teeth, tongue, and nose piece, were added later to create a more cohesive piece.


1. The earliest record of the object at Harvard is a photograph from the late 1940s of the object next to Rutherford Gettens, a conservator at the Fogg Art Museum; see F. Bewer, A Laboratory for Art: Harvard’s Fogg Museum and the Emergence of Conservation in America, 1900-1950 (Cambridge, MA, 2010) 163, fig. 4.11.

2. See the “Technical Observations” field.

3. See J. Elliott, “The Etruscan Wolfman in Myth and Ritual,” Etruscan Studies 2 (1995): 17-33.

4. Compare the chariot from Monteleone di Spoleto in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; see A. Emiliozzi, “The Etruscan Chariot from Monteleone di Spoleto,” Metropolitan Museum Journal 46.1 (2011): 9-132, esp. 72-75, no. 2a-d, figs. 1.7-8, 1.26, 1.30-31, 3.2, 3.5, and 5.11-22. Compare similar protomes on the Dutuit chariot and chariot 1 from Castel San Mariano di Corciano, Perugia in A. Emiliozzi, ed., Carri da guerra e principi etruschi, exh. cat., Viterbo, Palazzo dei Papi (Rome, 1997) 220, figs. 1, 4-5, and 10.

Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

  • Sybille Haynes, "Zwei archaisch-etruskische Bildwerke aus dem 'Isis-Grab' von Vulci", Antike Plastik (1965), 4, 22 n., 65a
  • Richard Stuart Teitz, Masterpieces of Etruscan Art, exh. cat., Worcester Art Museum (Worcester, MA, 1967), p. 161, no. 67.
  • John Elliott, "The Etruscan Wolfman in Myth and Ritual", Etruscan Studies (1995), Vol. 2, p. 17-33, fig. 1.
  • Francesca Bewer, A Laboratory for Art: Harvard's Fogg Museum and the Emergence of Conservation in America, 1900-1950, Harvard Art Museum and Yale University Press (U.S.) (Cambridge, MA, 2010), p. 163, fig. 4.11.

Exhibition History

  • Masterpieces of Etruscan Art, Worcester Art Museum, 04/21/1967 - 06/04/1967

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

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