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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Openwork Belt Ornament
Work Type
late 7th-8th century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Middle Ages, Early
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Copper alloy
3.4 x 1.3 x 0.4 cm (1 5/16 x 1/2 x 3/16 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The ornaments were cast, possibly by lost-wax casting or in two-part stone molds. Some working of the surfaces was done after casting. The patinas of these pieces are generally black, gray, or green; six ornaments are decorated with gold leaf (2001.270.1, 2001.270.2, 2001.270.3, 2001.270.4, 2001.270.6, and 2001.270.7). Different alloys are represented in the group, as indicated by the different colors of patinas and bare metal. Mechanical attachments include iron rods for hinged ornaments and rivets, some with metal washers extant, for attachment to some other substrate, perhaps leather. Some of the ornaments are heavily encrusted with burial dirt; many have minor losses.

Included in the copper alloy belt ornament group is a stone mold (2001.270.59) with carving on two sides: one finished, the other apparently unfinished. The finished side has a well-defined cut for a sprue and a hole used to key the stone to the other half of a two-part mold. It is possible that this mold was used to produce wax models for use in lost-wax casting, rather than the metal ornaments themselves.

Carol Snow (submitted 2002)


Recorded Ownership History
Bruce Ferrini, Akron, OH, gift; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 2001.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Bruce Ferrini
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 openwork belt ornament is one of twelve similar ornaments that have floral decoration and a light green patina (see Related Objects). Their slight differences in size and decoration are due to the imperfect casting of some of the pieces. The ornaments possess hinges, which are more or less completely preserved. They were originally joined to smaller ornaments like 2001.270.45 to 2001.270.53, as can be seen from the still complete example 2001.270.32. The belt ornaments 2001.270.24 to 2001.270.58 may belong together, as they have a very similar patina.

Copper alloy belt ornaments from the period of Avar domination of Eastern Europe (c. 567-822 CE) have been discovered in thousands of tombs, primarily in what is now Hungary. Many of the belt ornaments in Harvard’s collection most likely belong to the final phase of the Late Period (c. 668-822 CE) of Avar art, during which such ornaments were made of cast bronze and often employed “vine and scroll” motifs as well as other plant designs, including flowers and palmettes (1). Little space was left undecorated, reflecting a certain horror vacui, a feature of Avar art that also appeared in other medieval artistic production (2). S-curves and curl patterns are explained as tamgas, or clan symbols (3). Included with Harvard’s group of ornaments is one probably unused limestone mold (2001.270.59) that reveals, to some extent, the casting process of the Late Avar Period. Punched holes were also incorporated in the designs, and gilding appears frequently over the bronze. In the Early Avar Period, ornaments were made of beaten rather than cast metal, and designs were embossed.


1. For comparable belt ornaments, see J. G. Cincik, Anglo-Saxon and Slovak-Avar patterns of Cuthbert’s Gospel: A Study in Slovak Art of the Early Carolingian Era (Cleveland, 1958) pl.13 (belt end); I. Erdélyi, The Art of the Avars, transl. L. Halápy and D. Garman (Budapest, 1966) pl. 9, 19-24 and 28-35 (strap ends.); É. Garam, I. Kovrig, J. G. Szabó, and G. Y. Török, Avar Finds in the Hungarian National Museum, Cemeteries of the Avar Period (567-829) in Hungary 1 (Budapest, 1975) no. 9, pl. 2; nos. 11 and 14-17, pl. 3; nos. 1 and 10-20, pl. 14; nos. 1 and 16, pl. 15; and É. Garam, Das Awarenzeitliche Gräberfeld von Tiszafüred, Cemeteries of the Avar Period (567-829) in Hungary 3 (Budapest, 1995) Gr. 474, nos. 3, 8, and 15-16, Taf. 94; Gr. 513, nos. 21-38, Taf. 99; Gr. 1249, nos. 15-26, Taf. 167; Gr. 536/a, no. 8, Taf. 203; and Grs. 513 and 1270, nos. 8, 11-12, and 18-19, Taf. 223. For dating, production, and decorative motifs of Avar belt ornaments, see Erdélyi 1966 (supra) 35-42.

2. T. Demirjian, Treasures of the Dark Ages in Europe, exh. cat., Ariadne Galleries (New York, 1991) 9.

3. Ibid., 72.

Emily Gangemi Campbell

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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