Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Conical-headed Straight Pin (Toggle Pin)
Work Type
mid 3rd-early 1st Millennium BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Luristan (Iran)
Bronze Age
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Cast, lost-wax process
15.5 x 1.3 cm (6 1/8 x 1/2 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 93.64; Sn, 4.26; Pb, 0.33; Zn, 0.003; Fe, 0.18; Ni, 0.28; Ag, 0.05; Sb, 0.05; As, 1.21; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.015; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Arsenical Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, arsenic
Other Elements: lead, iron, nickel, silver
K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina of these pins (164.1972, 1969.190, 1992.256.69, 1992.256.120, and 2004.196) is green with areas of dark green and red. Some burial accretions are present. The decorative top and the rod shape of the pins were probably cast using an indirect lost-wax technique. It is likely that the tapering point of each pin was refined by hammering. Finer details in the decorative tops may also have included cold-work punching, such as the chevron lines in 2004.196. The soft fluid shapes of 164.1972 probably indicate direct work in the wax model.

Henry Lie (submitted 2011)

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 rounded shaft of this pin tapers to a point and is decorated with alternating beads and reels in its upper half. A conical head sits almost directly on top of a raised molding above the uppermost and biggest of four beads; the lowest bead is elongated, flattened, and pierced by a hole. Faint lines remain of patterns that were incised on the comparatively long reels. These patterns consist of narrowly spaced horizontal lines bordered on each side by a row of short, vertical strokes. Such strokes are also visible between the molding and the conical head and were perhaps repeated on the shaft below the hole.

Pins of the same type, commonly pierced and bearing incised decoration, have been excavated at several sites in northwestern Iran and were apparently used over an extended period of time in the Bronze and early Iron Ages, from the mid-third to the early first millennium BCE (1). At Marlik, carefully crafted examples in gold were found (2). The hole may once have contained a wire hoop or piece of string, intended to attach the pin to the dress it fastened or to hold an additional ornament or utensil (3).


1. See L. Vanden Berghe, “La nécropole de Bani Surmah,” Archéologia 24 (1968): 52-63, esp. 56-58; and P. R. S. Moorey, Catalogue of the Ancient Persian Bronzes in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford, 1971) 179-80, nos. 243-48, pl. 43. Moorey’s suggestion that the pins with a conical head sitting directly on the shaft did not continue into the first millennium BCE has to be reconsidered in light of the finds from Surkh Dum; see E. F. Schmidt, M. N. van Loon, and H. H. Curvers, The Holmes Expedition to Luristan (Chicago, 1989) 183, 194-95 (21.B.3.4), 267, and 297-98 (27D.9), pls. 122.J and 156.P-R.

2. E. O. Negahban, Marlik: The Complete Excavation Report, University Museum Monograph 87 (Philadelphia, 1996) 187, nos. 457-58, pl. 94.

3. Bronze hoops are preserved on pins from Tepe Giyan, Djamshidi, and Sialk; see G. Contenau and R. Ghirshman, Fouilles du Tépé-Giyan près de Néhavend, 1931 et 1932 (Paris, 1935) 45, pls. 23, 25-29, and 74-75; R. Ghirshman, Fouilles de Sialk près de Kashan, 1933, 1934, 1937 (Paris, 1939) 2: 10, pl. 5.4. A third-millennium BCE shell inlay from Mari shows what looks like a cylinder seal suspended from a dress pin worn by a woman, and at least one example of a combination of pin and seal was excavated in the Royal Tombs at Ur; see R. L. Zettler and L. Horne, eds., Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur, exh. cat., University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Philadelphia, 1998) 77 and 118-19, fig. 45.

Susanne Ebbinghaus

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

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