Bucranium

By
Laura Hutchison
Laura Hutchison is finishing her first year of course-work in the Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program in Classical Art and Archaeology at Hopkins. Her research interests include Greek and Roman religion, the human form in ancient art, and modern issues in illicit trade of antiquities. She was excited and grateful to work so closely with ancient objects in preparation for The Roman House at Hopkins.

 

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  • Accession Number: JHUAM 551
  • Measurements: Height: 3.7cm, Width: 3.5cm
  • Material: Copper alloy
  • Culture/Date: Roman, 1st-2nd c. CE
  • Provenance: Palestrina, Italy

 

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Back view.

The bucranium, or ox skull, was used as a symbol of ritual sacrifice in early Mediterranean cultures, and grew to be a popular motif of Augustan art. An allusion to state religion and ritual sacrifice, this symbol would have been easily recognizable in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. The small bucranium seen here may have originally served as a decorative detail on a larger metal object used in the Roman house. However, the smooth back of the object suggests that it was carried in a pouch or displayed on a flat surface.