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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Breastplate Fragment with Inscription and Relief Decoration
Work Type
second half 7th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Crete
Orientalizing period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
9.5 x 21.3 x 0.1 cm (3 3/4 x 8 3/8 x 1/16 in.)
Technical Details

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

Chemical Composition: SEM-WDS data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 90.2; Sn, 9.2; Pb, nd; Zn, 0.06; Fe, 0.29; Ni, 0.11; Ag, nd; Sb, nd; As, nd; Co, 0.08
Comments: Considerable intergranular corrosion.

R. Newman, June 2015

Technical Observations: The patina is green with areas of rust color. Although there are no clear hammer marks in the x-radiograph, it is probable that the sheet was formed by cold working with a hammer. The incised letters are punched by means of numerous blows of a single tool with an elongated point (c. 2 to 3 mm long). Although the rough, corroded surface makes it difficult to be certain, the incised palmette design appears to have been made by pushing a smooth-pointed tool across the surface with repeated blows of a hammer.

Henry Lie (submitted 2000)

Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: in Greek, Οπρικος ο [--]νο
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 irregularly shaped sheet is a very fragmentary piece of breastplate, but H. Hoffman suggests it was worn on the front of the body (1). Portions of an incised volute and a palmette are present. It bears an untranslatable inscription in Archaic Cretan letters: “Οπρικος ο [--]νο” (2).

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 repoussé 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 (3). It has also been suggested, however, that they perhaps were used for a war dance rather than for combat (4).

H. Hoffman noted that all the breastplates in the Afrati hoard seemed to be a Cretan variant of the bell cuirass that was standard in the Archaic period, which had front and back plates bearing stylized anatomical details (5).


1. See H. Hoffmann and A. E. Raubitschek, Early Cretan Armorers (Mainz, 1972) 6-7.

2. 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.

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

4. 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.

5. See Hoffmann and Raubitschek 1972 (supra 1) 6-7.

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. 136, no. C 5.

Herbert D. Hoffmann and A.E. Raubitschek, Early Cretan Armorers, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 9, no. c 5.

Gunter Neumann, "Zu den kretischen Kriegernamen auf den Waffen von Afrati", Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung (1974), Vol. 88, Bd. 1, 32-40, as C5 [see esp. p. 37-38].

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

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