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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Other Titles
Alternate Title: pin(?)
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
1st-4th century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Antioch (Syria)
Find Spot: Middle East, Turkey
Roman Imperial period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Copper alloy
Cast and hammered
12.5 x 1.2 x 0.6 cm (4 15/16 x 1/2 x 1/4 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: Most areas have a smooth black patina. Others are slightly pitted with some green present. The black areas are very well preserved. The flat portion of the blade was hammered from the square rod stock of the shaft. Faceting in the groove decorations demonstrates that they were made using impact rather than abrasive filing. Scrape marks from the finishing of the surface are present throughout.

Henry Lie (submitted 2010)

Excavated from Daphne, sector 28-O (28-Theta-DH Room I, surface, 24/5/37) (Turkey, Hatay) by the Syrian Department of Antiquities (later the Hatay government) and the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and Its Vicinity, (1935-1939), dispersed; to Fogg Art Museum, 1939.

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and its Vicinity
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 thin, flat blade is widest at the handle then tapers gradually in the middle before swelling slightly before terminating in an oblong olivary probe (1). The blade overhangs each side of the shaft, which is quadrangular in section rather than circular. On the shaft just below the blade are two beads.

Greek and Roman medical instruments, many of which were described by ancient authors, have been found, sometimes in sets, throughout the ancient world (2). The instruments could have been used for more than one function, making precise classification difficult in some instances. A spatula is a probe with one flattened, spatula-shaped end and a probe on the other used for stirring and applying medicines, among other uses (3). Spatulae are among the most common instrument types (4).


1. A similar but more elaborate example in Barcelona is dated to the first century CE; see Los bronces romanos en España, exh. cat., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Palacio de Velazquez (Madrid, 1990) 338, no. 335. Compare also J. S. Milne, Surgical Instruments in Greek and Roman Times (New York, 1907) pl. 18.3.

2. Milne 1907 (supra 1) 1-9; and D. Michaelides, “A Roman Surgeon’s Tomb from Nea Paphos,” Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus, 1984: 315-32, esp. 321-23.

3. Milne 1907 (supra 1) 58-61; Michaelides 1984 (supra 2) 325-26; and R. Jackson and S. La Niece, “A Set of Roman Medical Instruments from Italy,” Britannia 17 (1986): 119-67, esp. 158.

4. L. J. Bliquez, Roman Surgical Instruments and Other Minor Objects in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (Mainz, 1994) 46-47.

David Smart

Exhibition History

Antioch-on-the-Orontes: Excavating an Early Byzantine City, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library & Collection, Washington, 04/07/2010 - 10/10/2010

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

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