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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
1st-4th century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Rome (Latium)
Roman Imperial period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Copper alloy
16.8 x 1 cm (6 5/8 x 3/8 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The patina is green over black. The object appears to be intact. A small square sticker with “56” typed on it adheres to one side of the flat tool end.

The spatula was made by casting the general shape, with some possible working to further shape the flat end and finish the surface.

Carol Snow (submitted 2002)


Recorded Ownership History
Harold Wilmerding Bell, Cambridge, MA (by 1911), gift; to the Department of the Classics, Harvard University (1911-1977), transfer; to the Fogg Museum.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Department of the Classics, Harvard University, Gift of H. W. Bell
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 spatula has a lancet-type leaf at one end of its circular, heavily corroded shaft and an olivary probe at the other end. The shaft is twisted and bent in a few areas, especially near the probe. The tip of the spade tapers into a rounded, blunt tip, and the edges end in two small barbs. Three ribbed collars of similar width are visible below the transition from the handle to the spade, and this area appears to be partially fractured.

Greek and Roman medical instruments, many of which were described by ancient authors, have been found, sometimes in sets, throughout the ancient world (1). The instruments could have been used for more than one function, making precise classification difficult in some instances. A spatula is a probe with one flattened, spatula-shaped end and a probe on the other used for stirring and applying medicines, among other uses (2). Spatulae are among the most common instrument types (3).


1. J. S. Milne, Surgical Instruments in Greek and Roman Times (Oxford, 1907) 1-9; and D. Michaelides, “A Roman Surgeon’s Tomb from Nea Paphos,” Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus, 1984: 315-32, esp. 321-23.

2. Milne 1907 (supra 1) 58-61; Michaelides 1984 (supra 1) 325-26; and R. Jackson and S. La Niece, “A Set of Roman Medical Instruments from Italy,” Britannia 17 (1986): 119-67, esp. 158.

3. L. J. Bliquez, Roman Surgical Instruments and Other Minor Objects in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (Mainz, 1994) 46-47.

David Smart

Subjects and Contexts

  • Roman Domestic Art
  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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