The Testimony of Hands


64.14.6, bronze ornamental element from unknown object
Roman Republic/Empire (100 B.C.–A.D. 200)
Gift of Hollis Hopkins
Photograph by B. Bernard

Whatever this ornamental element was intended to display (a goddess, most likely), it also betrays Roman concepts of feminine beauty. For Roman women of any consequence, an elaborate hairdo was as critical then as it is for many women today.

This ornamental element is 5 centimeters (2 inches) tall and was most likely produced by the lost wax casting method. First, the figure was carved from beeswax, leaving projecting spikes or "sprues." The wax model was covered with clay, which was baked, causing the melted wax to run out through channels left by the sprues. The resulting void in the hardened clay had the same shape as the original wax carving. The void was filled with molten bronze. Once the bronze hardened and cooled, the baked clay mold was broken away, leaving a bronze figure. Roughly similar methods are used today, for everything from earrings to statues.

Bronze is a mix of copper and tin, which came from opposite ends of the Roman Empire. The copper came from the eastern Mediterranean, while the tin probably came from is now England. The gray-green patina is from the slow oxidation of the surface, and derives primarily from the copper.

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All content copyright © Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, University of New Mexico. A high-resolution verson of this photograph may be ordered from the Maxwell Museum's photo archives. Please make note of the catalogue number. For more information please visit the photo archives web page

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