Clamps on Coins (CW: Castration?)

BM 1856,0701.33

I didn’t know about this object until yesterday, when it was brought into a twitter convo. Needless to say I’ve been thinking about it ever since. The keen eyed Clare Rowan noticed a potential connection to a Cr. no. 6 obv symbol of the Papius series (images below) and I was deeply skeptical at first. Part of my skepticism in the knee jerk reaction came from how shiny the object looked in discussion on Roger Pearse’s blog. I thought they were gilt and thus I was like that can’t be real–must be a forgery for the titillation of some 19th century collector. But we must consider all options.

The BM description leaves some thing to be desired.

Do you know of a fuller publication not (yet) known to me the BM or Pearse?

They are briefly discussed in Tracy 2013 Medieval Castration p. 43-44.

To start, why couldn’t the left hand topper not be Attis (castrated consort of Cybele)?

Also why are there flame/horn like spiky hair protrusions from the horse heads?

I also worry that the deities down the sides haven’t been well identified

Mars (youthful), Luna, Helios, Saturn seem the best description down this side.
Mercury, Jupiter, ?Venus?, ??? someone else???

The order seems possibly cosmological. Both sides terminate with bull heads. Notice a similar cosmological theme in this plate:

The Parabiago plate – La patera di Parabiago [2nd to 4th cent CE]
Ancient Roman cemetery at Parabiago near Milano
Milano Archaeological Museum (image from Flickr)

Here’s the reconstruction (read article online, download pdf):


Notice that the whole where the missing bottom pin or screw would be placed

So why do I care? Well the Papius series has this thing that I though might be a musical instrument
But now I see this from the Fabatus series and a clamp seems almost indisputable…
Schaefer Archive Image of RRC 412

So now the question is now not what is the funny triangle but rather what do horns have to do with clamps? I don’t know enough about animal husbandry….

A more ordinary clamp (also from Francis article)

Excerpt of Adams 1990:

I’m now reading Heeren 2009 who is not so fixated on the castration explanation of the tools. He suggests these items might be a twitch used in horse care. He brings up the incredibly weight of the metal clamps that survive that would make them less functional for either castration or twitching a horse as the weight of the object would cause more pain than if a lighter wooden tool was used.

So maybe its a clamp but not for twitching or castrating? What else do we do to animals with a clamp?

Just for comparison.
Could the horn be a spout? Probably not.

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