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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
3rd-4th century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
Roman Imperial period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Copper alloy
Cast and hammered
5.6 x 0.8 cm (2 3/16 x 5/16 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The patina is green, red, and black with encrustations. A loss of surface detail has occurred, and an iron strip inside the tweezers is missing an end.

The object was cast and hot worked to shape the tweezers. Surface designs were engraved. A fragment of an iron strip of metal is held mechanically inside the tweezers by a copper alloy pin with its outer ends hammered over to make a rivet.

Carol Snow (submitted 2002)

Louise M. and George E. Bates, Camden, ME (by 1971-1992), gift; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 1992.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Louise M. and George E. Bates
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 tweezers are formed from a copper alloy strip that is bent, creating a loop at the apex. The strips below the loop are roughly triangular, with somewhat more elaborate decoration directly below the loop and some incised geometric decoration on the exterior surfaces (1). The tweezers end in rounded points. An iron strip runs half way down the length from the apex on the inside of the tweezers.

In the ancient world, tweezers were used both as part of a surgeon’s kit and also as a standard cosmetic item for depilation (2).


1. Compare with longer instrument from Roman Egypt called forceps (perhaps artery forceps) in V. Moller-Christensen, The History of Forceps: An Investigation on the Occurrence, Evolution, and Use of the Forceps from Prehistoric Times to the Present Day (Copenhagen, 1938) 139, fig. 200. See also R. Jackson, “A Set of Roman Medical Instruments from Italy,” Britannia 17 (1986): 119-167, esp. 122-23, nos. 10-11, fig. 1.

2. J. S. Milne, Surgical Instruments in Greek and Roman Times (Oxford, 1907) 90-93; L. J. Bliquez, Roman Surgical Instruments and Other Minor Objects in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (Mainz, 1994) 60; and P. M. Allison, The Insula of the Menander at Pompeii 3: The Finds (Oxford, 2006) 29.

David Smart

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Roman Domestic Art

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