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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Helmet with Inscription
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Greek helmet with inscription
Work Type
second half 7th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Crete
Orientalizing period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
20 x 18.5 x 22 cm (7 7/8 x 7 5/16 x 8 11/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 90.66; Sn, 7.86; Pb, 0.08; Zn, 0.012; Fe, 1.16; Ni, 0.02; Ag, 0.05; Sb, 0.03; As, 0.13; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

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

Chemical Composition: EMP analysis from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 90.07; Sn, 7.70; Pb, 0.07; Zn, 0.00; Fe, 1.21; Ni, 0.00; Ag, 0.04; Sb, 0.03; As, 0.04

M. McNamara, October 2000

Technical Observations: The patina is green with dark green and red on the interior. The lower edge is missing along most of the proper left side.

The helmet was raised from two sheets of bronze and joined with rivets along an overlap of 0.5 to 1.0 cm. Eighteen copper alloy rivets (c. 1.5 mm in diameter with 2 mm heads) were used; seven are modern replacements, but the rest are ancient. An x-radiograph of the helmet reveals numerous faint hammer marks (c. 1 to 1.5 cm in diameter) from the formation process. The thickness of the sheet is relatively uniform, ranging from 0.6 to 0.9 mm. An antique repair patch (1 x 2 cm) reinforces a crack along this join in the interior. Additionally, there are two or perhaps three additional rivets along this join at irregular locations compared to the evenly spaced rivets. One of these is intact and projects 7 mm on the exterior, probably to support decorative attachments. Four holes (1.5 to 2.5 mm) running roughly in line laterally across the top of the helmet may also have supported attachments. There is a 2.7-cm band of the surface across the area above the eyes that is better preserved than the rest of the helmet, and five rivets at this location may have held an attachment (1).

The incised decorations were made using a fine tracer. Repetitive impressions along the incised lines reveal that most or all were created with the same tool by means of angled blows of a hammer rather than having been punched in a vertical direction. The raised bands separating the incised decorations were created by working the interior using a repoussé technique. The inscription, which is more crudely formed, was made using punches held vertically, one c. 1.3 mm and the other 5 mm in length.


1. Compare H. D. Hoffmann and A. E. Raubitschek, Early Cretan Armorers (Mainz, 1972) 2-4, no. H1, pls. 1-5 and 7 (now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. no. 1989.281.50), which has an additional decorative element riveted to the visor section.

Henry Lie (submitted 1998)

Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: in Greek, Fισοκράτης τόνδε
    [The helmet has the same inscription as mitra 1991.38.]
From Afrati. Ex Norbert Schimmel Collection.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of the Schimmel Foundation, Inc.
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 Cretan open-faced helmet was made in two halves that are riveted together at the center; a crest would have been attached along the seam (1). A separate frontlet, perhaps decorated, would have been riveted to the front of the helmet above the eyes; the area it covered has a different color than the rest of the helmet dome (2). Unlike other helmets from this cache now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the dome of this helmet is not decorated, but the flaring neck guard, approximately half of which is preserved, bears two bands of decoration within molding. The upper band consists of two incised rows of hatched triangles with a wide gap between them; the lower band consists of incised egg-and-dart rendered by a double outline. On the proper right, the neck guard decoration terminates in an incised vertical bar with a wave pattern on the interior and a short line of egg-and-dart, rendered similarly to that on the neck guard but perpendicular to it. The proper right cheek piece preserves its original rounded shape and is decorated with an incised eight-petal rosette, each petal rendered with a double line. The proper left cheek piece is much more fragmentary, but a portion of the neck guard decoration can be seen. Above this, the dedicatory inscription “Fισοκράτης τόνδε,” (Fisokrates [took] this), is written in Archaic Cretan letters” (3).

Harvard’s Cretan armor is part of a larger cache, portions of which are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg; and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. Many of the other pieces in the group are highly decorated with incised and repousse images. The objects do not appear to have been part of a dedication to a deity, given the inscriptions found on the pieces. Fourteen pieces of armor from the cache bear dedicatory inscriptions, naming several different warriors, and these seem to indicate that the group of armor was captured in battle and dedicated together as a group (4). It has also been suggested, however, that they perhaps were used for a war dance rather than for combat (5).

Cretan helmets differ from Corinthian helmets by their cheek pieces and lack of nose guard (6). This type of helmet is typically made by joining two sheets of metal, unlike other helmets in the Harvard collection that are raised from one sheet (7), and many will have had a separately made visor, here lost. This is the only helmet in the published group that does not have relief decoration on the skull section (8).


1. For a description of the helmet type as well as a description of the rivets and attachments on this helmet, see H. Hoffmann and A. E. Raubitschek, Early Cretan Armorers (Mainz, 1972) 1-2 and 5, no. H3.

2. Compare an example from the same cache presently restored with a visor frontlet in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. no. 1989.281.50; see Hoffmann and Raubitschek 1972 (supra 1) 2-4, no. H1, pls. 1-5 and 7.

3. The same inscription occurs on 1991.38. The verb ἧλε (“to take or capture”) appears in inscriptions on other elements of armor from this cache (see 1991.37 and 1991.47) and can therefore be understood here. For a discussion of the inscriptions on Archaic armor and the Afrati cache in particular, see Hoffmann and Raubitschek 1972 (supra 1) 15-16; and G. Neumann, “Zu den kretischen Kriegernamen auf den Waffen von Afrati,” Zeitschrift für verleichende Sprachforschung 88.1 (1974): 32-40.

4. See Hoffmann and Raubitschek 1972 (supra 1) 15-16.

5. For a discussion of this armor cache being used for a war dance, see E. Simon, “Die Waffen von Arkades: Ausrüstung für die Pyrrhiche,” Anodos: Studies of the Ancient World 4-5 (2004-2005): 231-42, esp. 239-41; and M. Lesky, “4.b. Dance, G: Waffentänze in der griechischen und etruskischen Antike,” Thesaurus Cultus Et Rituum Antiquorum 2: 314-17.

6. See D. G. Mitten and S. F. Doeringer, Master Bronzes from the Classical World, exh. cat., The Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums; City Art Museum of St. Louis; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Mainz, 1967) 45.

7. Compare Harvard’s Corinthian (1916.362 and 1956.18), Illyrian (1972.55), and Negau (2012.1.103) helmets.

8. See Hoffmann and Raubitschek 1972 (supra 1) 2-6; nos. H1 (now Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. no. 1989.281.50), H2 (now Met., inv. no. 1989.281.49), H4 (now in Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, inv. no. 1970.26.d), and H5 (now Hamburg, inv. no. 1970.26.c); pls. 1-5 and 7-13.

Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

Suzannah F. Doeringer, David Gordon Mitten, and Arthur Steinberg, ed., Art and Technology: A Symposium on Classical Bronzes, M.I.T. Press (Cambridge, MA, 1970), p. 135, no. H 3, fig. 7.

Friedrich Matz and Lisa Lotte Möller, Dädalische Kunst auf Kreta im 7. Jh. v. Chr., Verlag Philipp von Zabern (Mainz, 1970), p. 30, 39, no. A 3, pl. 11.a-b.

Herbert D. Hoffmann and A.E. Raubitschek, Early Cretan Armorers, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 5, no. H 3, pl. 11.

Gunter Neumann, "Zu den kretischen Kriegernamen auf den Waffen von Afrati", Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung (1974), Vol. 88, Bd. 1, 32-40, as H3 [see esp. p. 38].

Molly McNamara, "Technical Studies of Four Ancient Greek Helmets in the Collection of the Harvard University Art Museums" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, October 2000), Unpublished, pp. 1-59 passim

Molly McNamara, "Technical Studies of Four Ancient Greek Helmets at the Harvard University Art Museums", I Bronzi Antichi: Produzione e Technologia, ed. Alessandra Giumlia-Mair, Editions Monique Mergoil (Montagnac, 2002), 281-283, Fig. 1.

Susanne Ebbinghaus, ed., Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, Harvard Art Museum/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2014), p. 154

Exhibition History

32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/22/2016 - 01/08/2017

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

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