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Identification and Creation

Object Number
1977.216.2201.9
Title
Ligula
Classification
Tools and Equipment
Work Type
medical instrument
Date
1st-4th century CE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Rome (Latium)
Period
Roman Imperial period
Culture
Roman
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/99094

Physical Descriptions

Medium
Copper alloy
Technique
Cast
Dimensions
12.7 x 0.5 cm (5 x 3/16 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The patina is grayish green. There are small surface losses, but the object is otherwise intact. The ligula was made by casting the rough shape and then working to further shape it and finish the surface.


Carol Snow (submitted 2002)

Provenance

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
1977
Object Number
1977.216.2201.9
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Permissions

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Descriptions

Commentary

Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
The small scoop at one end of this ligula joins the shaft at an almost 90-degree angle. The shaft is undecorated and tapers to a point at the end opposite the scoop. The shaft is mostly circular in section, although there are a few areas, particularly near the scoop, that are slightly faceted.

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 ligula is a probe with a small scoop on one end positioned at an angle to the shaft; the scoop was used to remove ointments and powdered medicines from containers and perhaps also apply them (2).

NOTES:

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) 77-78; Michaelides 1984 (supra 1) 325; R. Jackson and S. La Niece, “A Set of Roman Medical Instruments from Italy,” Britannia 17 (1986): 119-67, esp. 157; and L. J. Bliquez, Roman Surgical Instruments and Other Minor Objects in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (Mainz, 1994) 48-49.


David Smart

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

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