Incorrect Username, Email, or Password
This object does not yet have a description.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
medical instrument
1st-3rd century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Rome (Latium)
Roman Imperial period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Copper alloy
10.1 x 0.4 cm (4 x 3/16 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The patina is green and black. The tool end is broken off, while the rounded end is preserved. The handle was made by casting with some finishing after casting.

Carol Snow (submitted 2002)


Recorded Ownership History
"From Rome" according to Classical Collection index card; received as a gift of H.W. Bell on Feb. 2, 1911.

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

The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.


Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
The shaft of this instrument is smooth and undecorated. One end is broken, and the other ends in an olivary probe (1).

Greek and Roman medical instruments, many of which were described by ancient authors, have been found, sometimes in sets, throughout the ancient world (2). The instruments could have been used for more than one function, making precise classification difficult in some instances. Probes had various uses and came in many types, some with scoops on the end (ligulae) or with a flatted end (spatulae), others with olivary probes on both ends. The probe ends could be used for searching wounds or applying medicines (3). The probes might also have been used for grinding and mixing cosmetics (4).


1. Compare probe fragments in E. Künzl, Medizinische Instrumente aus Sepulkralfunden der römischen Kaiserzeit (Cologne, 1983) 49 and 75, figs. 17.5 and 51.19.

2. 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.

3. Michaelides 1984 (supra 2) 315-32, esp. 324-25.

4. L. J. Bliquez, Roman Surgical Instruments and Other Minor Objects in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (Mainz, 1994) 52.

David Smart

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at