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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Strap End
Work Type
9th century
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Middle Ages, Early
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Mixed copper alloy, silver inlay and traces of gilding
Cast, lost-wax process
2.83 x 0.09 cm (1 1/8 x 1/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: Body metal
XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Mixed Copper Alloy
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead, zinc
Other Elements: iron, silver, arsenic, gold
Comments: There are traces of gilding on the object.

XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Silver
Alloying Elements: silver, copper
Other Elements: lead, iron

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The strap end has a dark brownish-black, somewhat rough patina, and there are traces of cupritic red and green corrosion accretions spread overall. There are tan accretions, perhaps wax, in the interstices.

The body of the strap end was cast in one piece, probably by the lost-wax process given the undercut of the bifurcated end. A rectangular piece of somewhat tarnished silver sheet was adhered to the front of the piece with a milky, translucent adhesive that fluoresces under ultraviolet light. The truncation of the repoussé design on the silver sheet makes it appear that the sheet was cut from a larger composition and that it could be a later enhancement or restoration. It is also not clear when the slight incision in the body of the strap end that aligns with the silver sheet was created. The modeling and texturing of the strap end were created in the wax model and may have been enhanced in the metal. Whether the crisper edges of the decorative detail on the front of the strap end are original or were created during post-excavation cleaning is not clear. The file marks on the back of the piece could have been present originally or caused by later cleaning.

The tops of both sections of the bifurcated portion are missing, and the broken edges are worn, as are what remain of the rivet holes. It is impossible to say whether these holes would have been made at the wax or in the metal, although it would certainly have required less effort to make them in the wax. The curve of the piece could be due to later distortion.

Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2012)


Recorded Ownership History
[Joseph Linzalone, Wolfshead Gallery, Ridgewood, NY, sold]; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 2004.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Purchase through the generosity of Mrs. Waltrud Lampé and the Marian H. Phinney Fund
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 strap end has an elliptical body and ends in a zoomorphic head, which has an oblong snout, triangular face, and perhaps block-like ears. The main section is decorated on the edge by a row of short horizontal lines. Below the broken rivet holes on the front is a triangle; the bottom line curves upward to the edge. The central section is decorated with a square silver inlay that has raised lines perhaps depicting the outline of a crescent or pelta. The piece curves and is concave on the back. This example has an animal head terminal, as do many others in the ninth century, but its highly modeled sides and top are somewhat unusual (1).

Strap ends are a relatively common item in medieval northern Europe; they would have adorned the ends of leather or cloth straps, on belts and perhaps other types of equipment (2).


1. Compare with the strap end in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, published in D. A. Hinton, A Catalogue of the Anglo-Saxon Ornamental Metalwork 700-1100 in the Department of Antiquities Ashmolean Museum (Oxford, 1974) 60, no. 31 (no number).

2. D. M. Wilson, Anglo-Saxon Ornamental Metalwork 700-1100 in the British Museum (London, 1964) 62-63.

Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

  • 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. 62

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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