Ancient Mediterranean

Digital Project

Single-levelled galley

Cat. No.



c. 700 B.C.




H: 8.8 cm; W: 14.65 cm


Bronze fibula with decorated catch-plate, broad oval bow and sail-shaped foot. Attributed to the "boat master"/Ship Engraver artist

Accession Number

British Museum 1897.0317.2


Basch 1987: 192, no. 405; Hampe 1936: no. 93, pl. 11; Morrison and Williams 1968: 77, Arch. 15; Walters 1899: no. 121

Single-levelled ship to the right. The hull is completely flat, rendered by two parallel horizontals joined by seven regularly spaced vertical lines. The stempost is concave, integrating a beak-shaped ram and terminating in an incurving S-shaped horn with a rectangular shaped tip. There are three short horizontal timbers tapering to a pointed tip projecting from the stermpost. The forecastle is a solid rectangle integrated to the bow. The sternpost is high and near vertical, ending in an inward pointing horn with a rectangular shaped tip. It curves gradually from the keel line which is otherwise flat. Three short planks protrude from the sternpost similar to the bow. The aftercastle consists of a rectangular rail intersected by four vertical stanchions. Unlike the forecastle, it does not appear integrated to the hull. The quarter rudder has a rectangular oar blade and a tiller. The mast is amidships, with a forked or bisected V top (karchesion). There is a forestay and a backstay attached to the castles. The verticals along the hull are possibly ribs.

(Side A) Ship facing right. Perched atop the horn device of each post are two large antithetical birds. There is a large fish facing right swimming below the hull. The same decorative pattern of parallel vertical zigzag lines used for the body of the fish and birds is used for the ship's hull.

(Side B): a horse facing left with a bird on its back. The plate is framed by intersecting semicircles, a characteristic attributed to the so-called "Ship Engraver."

The compositions on both sides of the catch plate are near identical to the fibula from Athens (inv. 8199). The rendition of the ship is also very similar except for a few details. The most notable one is the treatment of the stern, which here tapers gradually upwards, whereas on the Athens example it rises much more abruptly. Other minor differences include the shape of the quarter rudder, the shape of the tips of the horn devices, and slight variation in the aftercastle.

Basch, L. 1987. Le musée imaginaire de la marine antique. Athens: Institut Hellénique pour la preservation de la tradition nautique.

Hampe, R. 1936. Frühe griechische Sagenbilder in Böotien, Ate¬ne : Deutsches archäologisches institute.

Morrison, J.S. and R.T. Williams. 1968. Greek Oared Ships: 900-322 B.C. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Walters, H.B. 1899. Catalogue of the Bronzes, Greek, Roman, and Etruscan, in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum. London: Printed by order of the Trustees of the British Museum.

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