Horse bit

Etruscan; Villanovan
8th–7th century BCE
more object details

General Description

Villanovan horse bits have been recovered from several tombs in northern and central Italy. Found in both male and female burials, these objects indicate the affluent social position of those who could afford horses and horse-drawn transportation. The bits are often found in pairs, and occasionally in context with wagon or chariot parts, suggesting that these ornate devices were made in pairs for a team of horses and not just for an individual horse. A horse bit nearly identical to the one discussed here is in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. It is analogous in nearly every detail except that the horses' manes are not scalloped. Neither of these two bits has a known provenance, but whether or not they were made for the same team of horses, it sees likely they were crafted in the same workshop.

Discoveries of many bronze horse-bits in Villanovan burials suggest an increasing use of horses, which had probably been brought in by invaders from the North, and the possibility that there may have developed an aristocratic class of horse owners. Bits like these included in burials indicated either pride of ownership, or the belief that man would need to control a horse in the next world.

Adapted from

  • Anne R. Bromberg, and Karl Kilinski II, Gods, Men, and Heroes: Ancient Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), 83.

  • Dallas Museum of Fine Arts Newsletter, April 1970.