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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Knee Fibula
Work Type
pin, fibula
2nd-3rd century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
Roman Imperial period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Fibula: leaded bronze; Pin: Mixed copper alloy
Cast and hammered
3.1 x 2.3 cm (1 1/4 x 7/8 in.)
Technical Details

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

XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Mixed Copper Alloy
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, zinc
Other Elements: lead, iron

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The fibula has a very smooth, heavily mineralized, olive green surface with numerous losses that expose a lighter surface.

The fibula was cast in one piece, except for the pin and the fine metal rod to which it is hinged. The latter was probably inserted into the hollow crossbar through an opening at one end. The pin would have been hinged onto the rod at opening cut into the center of the cross bar as the rod was pushed through. The rounded end of the long, flat catchplate was formed by hammering. The body of the fibula and its decorative elements were created in the wax and then refined in the metal through filing. Because of the pin is heavily corroded, it is not clear how it was made, although the elongated structure of the copper alloy corrosion suggests that it was formed like other pins by hammering together a long flat sheet of metal.

Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2012)

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Jerry Nagler
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 knee fibula is intact. The pin is hinged onto the fibula and attached at the cylindrical head. The curving bow is thickest at the midpoint, tapering toward the foot; the bow is faceted, making a polygonal section. A small knob with a collar decorates the end of the foot. The rectangular catchplate is parallel to the bow and folded at the bottom to hold the pin.

Named after their distinctive bent bows, knee fibulae were popular in Britain and the Danubian provinces of the Roman Empire from the second to third centuries CE (1).


1. See R. Hattatt, Brooches of Antiquity: A Third Section of Brooches from the Author’s Collection (Oxford, 1987) 261-72, figs. 81-84; S. Ortisi, Die früh- und mittelkaiserzeitlichen Fibeln, Römische Kleinfunde aus Burghofe 2 (Rahden, 2002) 34-36, nos. 293-94, pl. 18; and D. Mackreth, Brooches in late Iron Age and Roman Britain (Oxford, 2011) 190 and 192, no. 7679, pl. 132.

Lisa M. Anderson

Exhibition History

Roman Gallery Installation (long-term), Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/16/1999 - 01/20/2008

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

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