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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Knife Handle in the Shape of the Foreparts of a Dog
Weapons and Ammunition
Work Type
2nd century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Roman Imperial period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Mixed copper alloy, malachite inlays
Cast, lost-wax process
1.6 x 1.3 x 8.6 cm (5/8 x 1/2 x 3 3/8 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Mixed Copper Alloy
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead, zinc
Other Elements: iron

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The surface has been chemically stripped of what were likely green and red corrosion products and has oxidized to a dark color. The iron blade is lost except for some remaining reddish rust. The inlays at the collar and eyes are lost. Only a small part of the protruding tongue remains.

The bronze is a solid cast from a wax model. It is not clear if a mold was used to form the wax model or if it was modeled directly. Cold work is present in the areas where recesses were carved to receive inlay: the eyes, collar, and the three central veins of the leaves. These veins contain remnants of iron. Some remaining green in the collar may indicate a copper inlay or copper alloy of a different color. The eye cavities are empty and clean. The rusted remains of the iron blade are still present, as is the iron pin that held it in place and served as a pivot. Fine striations in the slot for storing the blade indicate it was cut abrasively rather than cast. The remnant of the tongue is lined up with the flattened head of a pin at the top of the nose and is probably the same piece of metal. This element has a smooth, black surface, but XRF analysis indicates that the alloy is consistent with that of the body of the dog. Two 3-mm beads of a green mineral, probably polished malachite, are set into the junction of the three leaves; a third bead is set into the back of the dog’s neck.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)

[Gallery Gunter Puhze, Freiburg, West Germany, 1984[ sold; to The Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University (1984-2012), transfer; to the Harvard Art Museums, 2012.

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University
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 bronze handle in the shape of a crouched hound was once part of a folding knife. The hound’s molded ears are flat on the top of its head, which is held low; the muzzle is long, with a mouth and nose indicated; the eyes are oblong and on the sides of the head. The hound wears a collar that was once decorated with a non-bronze material, and there is a small circular green decoration on the top of the collar, which XRF analysis indicates may be malachite. Its rather short forelegs are extended under its chin, and its flattened hindquarters are just visible emerging from stylized foliage, decorated with two more circular green decorations, and ending in the square-sectioned handle, to which the knife blade was secured by means of an iron rivet. The blade would have folded into a narrow slit in the belly of the hound. The patina is dark gray, with light brown areas and some iron encrustation near the hinge for the blade.

Folding knives came into use in the classical period, particularly under the Romans (1). Hound folding knives were popular in northern Europe, particularly Britain, and frequently show the hounds chasing rabbits. Other examples include a folding knife with a similar scene in the British Museum (2), as well as another in a similar style found in an Anglo-Saxon grave in Kingsworthy, Hampshire, UK (3).


1. See S. Moore, Penknives and Other Folding Knives (Aylesbury, 2006) 3.

2. From Vaison, dated to the first-second century CE, inv. no. 1851,0813.45.

3. See S. Hawkes, The Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Worthy Park, Kingsworthy, near Winchester, Hampshire, Oxford University School of Archaeology Monograph 59 (Oxford, 2003) 101, fig. 2.30 (grave 47, no. 9).

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. 83

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

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