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An extremely rare “Ordos” bronze harness decoration from one of the nomadic cultures located on China’s north-western borders in the first millennium BCE. On its front, at either end, there are two human faces worked into the bronze that has been cast in a two piece-mould. On the reverse, there are two struts to attach it to a leather horse harness. It is particularly interesting that each face has quite distinct features, possibly referring to different ethnic backgrounds.
As Jenny So has pointed out in discussing another bronze ornament with twin faces (Traders and Raiders on China’s Northern Frontier, So and Bunker, p.104), “The human face is a rare ornamental motif in Bronze Age China.” She suggests that the earliest examples from the late second millennium BCE are rather abstract and stylized, while later more realistic ones such as this date from the first millennium BCE.
Length: 10.5 cm; width: 3 cm.
Condition: Very good, with some verdigris, which does not affect the structure of the bronze.
Purchased in Hong Kong in 1992.