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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Fibula with Beaded Triangular Bow
Work Type
pin, fibula
8th-4th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Iran
Iron Age
Near Eastern
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Fibula: leaded bronze or leaded copper; Pin: Copper
Cast, lost-wax process
2.3 x 4 x 0.8 cm (7/8 x 1 9/16 x 5/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: Fibula
XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Leaded Bronze or Leaded Copper
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead
Other Elements: iron
Comments: Low levels of tin and high levels of lead at the surface may be due to corrosion.

XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Copper
Alloying Elements: copper
Other Elements: lead, iron, silver, arsenic

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is green with areas of underlying red and black. Brown burial accretions are also present. The catchplate is broken off and lost, and the metal at the break is completely mineralized. A resinous soil mixture at the middle of the cast bow may be a repair in that location.

The bow was cast, probably by the lost-wax process. The catchplate was cold worked by hammering out one end of the casting. The wire for the pin and spring was formed by cold working and inserted into a hole in the end of the bow.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)


Recorded Ownership History
Harry J. Denberg, New York, NY (by 1969), gift; to the Fogg Art Museum, 1969.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Harry J. Denberg
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
The catch of this triangular fibula is partially broken off, and due to heavy accretions, the decoration on the bow is difficult to discern. The molded elements on either side of the central bend may have consisted of two collared ribs or two large biconical or tri-ridged beads. Due to the poor condition, it is not possible to suggest parallels for this piece with any certainty, but a comparison can possibly be made with a simple double beaded Neo-Assyrian fibula excavated from the Northwest Palace at Nimrud, probably dating to the seventh century BCE (1). A similar object, on which the beads are collared, was excavated at the northwest Iranian site of Hasanlu from a tomb dated to the fifth to fourth centuries BCE (2).

Fibulae were worn at the chest or shoulder to fasten garments, similar to a safety pin. They sometimes also served to secure pendants suspended from chains (3). These devices first came into use in the Near East near the end of the second millennium BCE, when they were probably introduced by eastern Mediterranean merchants. The earliest fibulae excavated in Mesopotamia and Iran are dated to the eighth century BCE. Fibulae appear more frequently in Near Eastern contexts of the seventh century and later, when they surpassed the straight pin in popularity. Most Near Eastern fibulae have a triangular bow, as seen in the Harvard examples. Fibulae of this form, sometimes referred to as “elbow” -shaped, belong to Type XIII of Blinkenberg’s classification and to Types III and IV of Stronach’s typology (4).

Near Eastern elbow fibulae vary in size and detail, but in general, they are relatively plain and usually have bead-and-reel decoration. The arms of the bow are often of slightly unequal lengths, with the longer one terminating in a catchplate that sometimes takes the form of a human hand. The spring typically consists of a triple loop that extends into a round, tapered, and pointed pin. Fibulae were often produced from two pieces that were joined by inserting the pin into the bow.

The Harvard fibulae can be generally compared with Neo-Assyrian examples from the Mesopotamian sites of Nimrud, Nineveh, and Khorsabad, as well as with Iranian examples from Iron Age III levels at the Luristan sites of War Kabud, Sar Kabud, Cham Sul, Dam Chaft, and Tepe Nush-i Jan, among others (5). Although separate production centers probably existed, it appears Mesopotamia and Iran used similar fibula types, making it difficult to assign provenience to unexcavated pieces (6).


1. D. Stronach, “The Development of the Fibula in the Near East,” Iraq 21 (1959): 180-206, esp. 198, no. 2, fig. 9.

2. O. W. Muscarella, “Hasanlu 1964,” The Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 25.3 (1966): 121-35, esp. 135, fig. 38; and L. Vanden Berghe, “Les fibules provenant des fouilles au Pusht-i Kuh, Luristan,” Iranica Antiqua 13 (1978): 35-74, esp. 56 and 59, no. 8, fig. 11.

3. Vanden Berghe 1978 (supra 2) 41 and 51-52, nos. 1-2, fig. 4, pl. 2.

4. C. Blinkenberg, Lindiaka 5: Fibules grecques et orientales, Historisk-filologiske meddelelser 13.1 (Copenhagen, 1926) 244; and Stronach 1959 (supra 1) 193-203.

5. J. Curtis, Nush-i Jan 3: The Small Finds (London, 1984) 29-30, nos. 263-74, fig. 5; O. W. Muscarella, Bronze and Iron: Ancient Near Eastern Artifacts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 1988) 209, no. 317; Stronach 1959 (supra 1) 200; and Vanden Berghe 1978 (supra 2).

6. For a fibula found at Nimrud that is nearly identical to one found in a tomb at the site of Gul Khanan Murdah on the western fringe of Luristan, see E. Haerinck and B. Overlaet, Djub-i Gauhar and Gul Khanan Murdah: Iron Age III Graveyards in the Aivan Plain, Luristan Excavation Documents 3, Acta Iranica 36 (Leuven, 1999) 171.

Amy Gansell

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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