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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Lock in the Form of a Horse with Saddle
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
12th-17th century or later
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia
Byzantine period, Early
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Copper alloy
Cast, lost-wax process
4.4 x 3.8 x 1 cm (1 3/4 x 1 1/2 x 3/8 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The surfaces of both 2002.315 and 2002.316 are dark brown and black, and there are light gray burial accretions in many areas. The pin mechanism in both locks is frozen in place. The pin of 2002.316 is iron and largely mineralized. Its two halves have split apart at the rear but are tight together at the front of the horse and at its head.

The horse halves were probably cast by the lost-wax process, but a sand-casting process is also possible. In each case, the two halves were separately cast, joined together, and then finished as a unit. The join on 2002.316 at the nose of the horse, where it is tight, has a light colored line, which may be evidence of a lead solder join. A similar lock, 1995.1164, has white metal all along the join surface and indicates that a lead solder may be typical. The pin of 2002.315 is copper alloy, but some rust is visible at the rear of the horse and magnetic attraction indicates either that an iron retaining pin may go through the main copper alloy pin or that the entire internal portion of the main pin is iron.

Henry Lie (submitted 2005)

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Peter G. Neumann
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 stylized horse-shaped lock is composed of three elements—two halves of the horse and an iron pin. The horse has pointed curving ears, a slightly open mouth, and a thin curving neck. Raised sections on the upper portions of the fore- and hindquarters may indicate musculature. All four legs are separated, and hooves are modeled. The bending of the legs makes it appear as though the horse is depicted mid-gallop. Two points on top of the rectangular body indicate a saddle.

These cast-brass figurines in the shape of quadrupeds functioned as locks. Each was composed of two concave pieces joined together with a pin. A locking mechanism should be positioned in the interior of this intact, locked specimen. The bolts were cast separately from the bodies. To close the lock, the bolt was inserted through one end of the animal’s body and secured at the other (1). Locks of this design and style continued to be made in modern times (2). While the Harvard piece may be of medieval origin, it is equally possible that it was produced more recently.


1. For diagrams of possible locking mechanisms used in this device, see P. Tanavoli and J. T. Wertime, Locks from Iran: Pre-Islamic to Twentieth Century (Washington, DC, 1976) 33, figs. 6A-B; and G. Vikan and J. Nesbitt, Security in Byzantium: Locking, Sealing and Weighing (Washington, DC, 1980) 6, figs. 11-12.

2. See Tanavoli and Wertime 1976 (supra 1) 84-85, no. 119, pl. 5, for a seventeenth- to eighteenth-century example of comparable form and dimensions.

Lisa M. Anderson and Alicia Walker

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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