1991.39 and 1991.40 Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Breastplate Fragment
Work Type
second half 7th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Crete
Orientalizing period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
1991.40 alone: 22.6 x 29.1 x 6.2 x 0.1 cm (8 7/8 x 11 7/16 x 2 7/16)
Technical Details

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

Technical Observations: The patina is green with small areas of reddish yellow in some pits. Corrosion has created a very rough texture over most areas

The sheet was probably formed by hammering, and a number of broad hammer-like impressions are visible in the x-radiograph. The incised double line decoration was created by working both sides of the sheet to achieve added relief. The surface at these lines is very corroded, but no hammer marks are visible there on the surface or in the x-radiograph. They may have been created by repeatedly pushing or drawing a smooth-pointed tool along the surface.

Henry Lie (submitted 2000)

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 breastplate fragment was for the front of the torso. A stylized depiction of the musculature is incised in double lines. A curving double line near the top of the preserved piece outlines the pectoral muscle, and the decorative elements seem to be continued on 1991.39.

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 (1). It has also been suggested, however, that they perhaps were used for a war dance rather than for combat (2).

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 (3).


1. See H. Hoffmann and A. E. Raubitschek, Early Cretan Armorers (Mainz, 1972) 15-16.

2. 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.

3. 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. C6.

Herbert D. Hoffmann and A.E. Raubitschek, Early Cretan Armorers, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 9, no. C6, pl. 27.1.

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 am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu