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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Weapons and Ammunition
Work Type
9th-8th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Luristan (Iran)
Iron Age
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Cast, lost-wax process
32.4 cm (12 3/4 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 94.56; Sn, 4.42; Pb, less than 0.025; Zn, 0.003; Fe, 0.18; Ni, 0.32; Ag, 0.02; Sb, 0.02; As, 0.46; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.021; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001

J. Riederer

Chemical Composition: EMP analysis from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 93.71; Sn, 4.12; Pb, 0.02; Zn, 0.00; Fe, 0.13; Ni, 0.31; Ag, 0.01; Sb, 0.01; As, 0.39

T. Richardson, June 1999

Technical Observations: The patina is dark green and red. The dagger is a solid lost-wax cast. Minor casting flaws are visible on the blade edges and on the hilt.

The hilt and blade were cast in one piece. There are long striations or tool marks along the length of the hilt and marks or impressions at the curved edge of the hilt. The striations do not mark the rivet holes, which indicates that the holes were made in the metal after the surface was filed. There are no visible tool marks on the sides of the hilt, but there is preserved organic material from chance association on each side. The heights of the sides are uneven. There are also tool marks on the hilt of the dagger. Soft oval impressions (c. 2.0 mm x 0.5 mm) were made on the flat inlay surface of the hilt using a tool with a rounded edge. This may have been done not only to smooth out the surface of the wax, but also to shape it.

There are striations across the blade near the hilt, and others are found along the length of the blade with layers of corrosion under them. There are pseudomorphs of an organic woven material on the blade. The material has a warp and weft with approximately three threads per millimeter. The threads are c. 0.1 mm wide, and there is no evidence of a twist, but they cannot be identified due to their mineralization. The woven material may have been the interior lining of a scabbard or simply a cloth wrapped around the blade, but no published evidence of pseudomorphs on Luristan bronzes could be found to compare with this piece.

A sample (4 mm x 8 mm) was cut 3 cm from the tip of the blade, in an area free of tool marks and of pseudomorphs, for metallographic analysis. The section was mounted in epoxy resin, polished, and etched with potassium dichromate followed by ferric chloride. The section was examined under a polarizing microscope both before and after etching. Inclusions in the metal are visible as bluish-gray spots. They vary in shape across the section. Along the midrib of the blade, they are round, whereas on the cutting edge they are elongated. This elongation of the inclusions was caused by cold working or hammering the blade to harden the metal. Since the inclusions are elongated at the blade’s edge, as opposed to the midrib, the hammering must have been concentrated at the edge. Annealing twins and deformation lines are also visible. The cutting edge of the blade has a higher density of deformation lines than the midrib, which has some grains with no deformation lines at all. The higher density of deformation lines and the elongated inclusions support the conclusion that this dagger was cold worked and annealed, possibly more than once, with a final stage of cold working that focused primarily on the blade’s edges.

Tracy Richardson (submitted 1999)


Recorded Ownership History
Mr. E. H. Dooman, (by 1948), gift; to the Fogg Art Museum, 1948.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Mr. E. H. Dooman
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 blade of this dagger is integral with its hilt. The blade is simple, with a minimal midrib on both sides. The edges are parallel for most of the length, tapering only at the tip to form a point. There is no guard between the blade and hilt, and the edges of the handle are raised, potentially to secure inlay. Three circular perforations in a line on the hilt may indicate where rivets secured inlay. One third of the hilt is the same width as the blade, and then it narrows to the grip before expanding into a mushroom-shaped pommel. The shape of the upper portion of the hilt resembles some of the daggers from the site of Marlik (1).


1. Compare E. O. Negahban, Weapons from Marlik, Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran 16 (Berlin, 1995) 50-51; nos. 342-43 M, 736 M, 743 M, 719 M, 726 M, 1501 M, 738 M, 750 M, and 752 M; fig. 31; pl. 5.56-64. For a a similar hilt-shape on a more decorative dagger, see Bronzes du Luristan: Énigmes d l’Iran ancien, III-Ier millénaire av. J.-C., exh. cat. Musée Cernuschi (Paris, 2008) 84-85, no. 24. For hilts with inlay preserved, see ibid., 85-87, nos. 27-29, which have limestone, bone, and alabaster inlays. Compare also E. De Waele, Bronzes du Luristan et d’Amlash: Ancienne collection Godard, Publications d’histoire de l’art et d’archéologie de l’Université Catholique de Louvain 34 (Louvain-la-Neuve, 1982) 41-43, nos. 34-35, fig. 31.

Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

  • Tracy Richardson, "A Technical Study of Luristan Bronzes From Ancient Iran" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, June 1999), Unpublished, pp. 1-15 passim

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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