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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Relief Stamp
Artists' Tools
Work Type
first half 5th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Archaic period, Late, to Early Classical
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Cast, lost-wax process
2.2 x 2.8 x 0.5 (thickness with relief) x 0.2 (thickness without relief) cm (7/8 x 1 1/8 x 3/16 x 1/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Copper
Alloying Elements: copper
Other Elements: tin, iron, nickel, antimony, arsenic

XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Copper
Alloying Elements: copper
Other Elements: tin, lead, iron, nickel, antimony, arsenic

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is a mottled gray, tan, and black with a few small areas of green. The gray and tan areas are friable; the tan area on the back may be burial accretions.

This object is solid cast in one piece. Due to the surface having been worn and altered by corrosion and post-excavation cleaning, it is unclear how the original model was formed or to what extent it was cold worked. The model of the relatively simple raised shape could have been carved into a mold. The outline of the flat background suggests that the wax model was cut out.

Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2012)

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Jerome B. Spier
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
A small polygonal plaque, flat on the reverse, bears the head and body of a sphinx in relief, facing right. The edges are beveled, showing that the object is complete. The legs of the sphinx are not depicted (1). The head, rendered in profile, displays a cap-like coiffure. There appear to be traces of what may be a wing on the shoulder.

This object is clearly a stamp used for hammering relief representations in repoussé in sheet gold or silver. The modeling of the sphinx’s head and body suggests a date in the first half of the fifth century BCE. No close parallels for this piece appear among the punches and stamps illustrated by M. Treister.


1. For a stamp with a ram in relief reclining to the left that also omits the legs, see M. Y. Treister, Hammering Techniques in Greek and Roman Jewellery and Toreutics, Colloquia Pontica 8 (Leiden, 2001) 407, fig. 22 (Munich, Antikensammlung, inv. no. 4368B).

David G. Mitten

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

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