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Identification and Creation
Object Number
1987.135.28
Title
Razor
Classification
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
razor
Date
10th-9th century BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Period
Iron Age
Culture
Italic
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/304251
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Bronze
Technique
Cast and hammered
Dimensions
9.4 x 4.2 x 0.4 x 0.1 cm (3 11/16 x 1 5/8 x 3/16 x 1/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, silver, antimony, arsenic

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is green with areas of blue and small exposed spots of underlying red. The object was repaired at the juncture of the blade and the handle, but the two halves have matching surfaces and appear to belong together.

The handle was cast. The blade was probably hammered to its thin shape from a portion of the cast handle. The simple shape of the handle makes it difficult to know if it was cast from a model made directly in wax or if a two-part mold was used. The holes are original and were drilled. Burs at the edges of the holes indicate significant pressure was used and that the cutting edge was not sharp.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Jerry Nagler
Accession Year
1987
Object Number
1987.135.28
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions

Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This double-edged razor has an oblong shape and a series of 13 circular perforations of two different sizes in a simple pattern down the center of the blade. The blade is of uniform thickness, and there is no sign of incised decoration. The blade is extensively chipped along the edges, although the flat bottom appears to be intact. The ring handle with two decorative spurs does not seem to belong to this blade; spurred handles are not a feature of this type, and indeed, the x-radiograph shows that the two sections have been joined together. The metal of the handle is thicker than the blade. The surface patina is olive green.

This object may be classified as a variant of V. Bianco Peroni’s type “Marino,” which is dated to the tenth century BCE and has a distribution, based on the few known findspots, in central and southern Italy (1).

It is difficult to understand the use and symbolism of the bronze objects from Iron Age Italy that are classified as razors. Possibly used for trimming hair or beards, these razors seem to have had some symbolic value. They are typically found in male burials, and their inclusion in grave goods may indicate that the deceased was a man of mature age; or, in cases where they are found in female burials, they may be indicative of the owner’s elevated social status (2). Some razors have been found with fibulae fastened through the handle, demonstrating that they could be worn (3). Many examples have repaired handles, showing that the razors were important enough to fix if broken (4).

Razors are typically plain or covered with incised decoration, most frequently lines, bands of interlocking triangles, meanders, lines of dots hatched swastikas, and Maltese crosses. The two-edged examples, like this one, more often bear incised concentric circles or have decorative perforations on the blade. Often there are decorative spurs, crescents, or volutes on the handles, depending on the type.

NOTES:

1. V. Bianco Peroni, I rasoi nell’Italia continentale, Prähistorische Bronzefunde 7.2 (Munich, 1979) 48-49, nos. 229-32; esp. no. 232. There is no exact parallel for the pattern of decorative perforations on this razor.

2. See ibid., 178-82.

3. Compare ibid., nos. 156, 244, and 1042.

4. D. A. Caccioli, The Villanovan, Etruscan, and Hellenistic collections in the Detroit Institute of Arts (Leiden, 2009) 114; compare Bianco Peroni 1979 (supra 1) nos. 417 and 849.


Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

Julie Wolfe, "Analysis of Iron Age Bronze Fibulae from Southern Italy in the Collection of the Harvard University Art Museums" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, June 1998), Unpublished, p. 1-14 passim.

Lisa Anderson, "Approaches to the Identification and Classification of Ancient Bronzes in Museum Collections", 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), 92-111, pp. 100-103, fig. 4.3.a.

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. 100-102, fig. 4.3a

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

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 am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu