Collection online

The Treasury of Atreus

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (series)

    • The Treasury of Atreus
  • Description

    Parts of two carved green marble half-columns which flanked the tomb at the Treasury of Atreus.
    Sculpture A51 - The left column.
    (a) Left lower shaft. There is a joint above and below. On the lower bed are two dowel holes, each made of four circular drilled holes. The distance apart of these holes is 0.20m, centre to centre, which is slightly less than between the holes on the base, but the general agreement of base and shaft bed is considerable. The top bed has a swallow-tail cramp-hole cut to a depth of 0.085m below the upper bed, and therefore 1.895m above the base. On the façade is a swallow-tail cramp-hole 1.895m above the base, which thus corresponds. There are also two dowel holes, as before, in the extant part of the top bed, but as the left side of this is broken away, it is probable that there were three originally, set symmetrically around the cramp-hole.
    (b) Left upper shaft. The pattern is continuous with that of the lower shaft. The bottom bed is partly preserved and shows two dowel holes which would correspond with the lateral holes of the lower shaft. Between the holes is a small groove cut with the saw. The upper bed is broken away. There is no trace of a joint and no cramp-holes are shown in the façade, so the whole upper shaft was in a single piece; about 0.995m is therefore missing from the top of this fragment.
    (c) The greater part of the left capital and abacus is at Athens and is represented by a cast.
    (d) A cast of a small fragment of the capital at Karlsruhe, showing part of the lower member, part of an upper spiral and the edge of a chevron, is fitted in the front.
    (e) A cast of a small fragment, in Berlin since 1862, is inserted to the right of this; it shows part of the lower member and the end of a chevron.
    Sculpture A52 - The right column.
    (a) Right lower shaft. The bottom bed has two dowel holes irregularly placed on the right half which closely correspond with the two holes in the Pedestal. The upper joint is missing, but there traces of the bottom of a swallow-tail cramp-hole, 0.044m short of the greatest length, or 1.822m above the bottom bed. As the depth of the corresponding cramp-hole in the left shaft is 0.085m, the total height of this shaft was about 1.907m. The bottom of the cramp-hole in the façade is 1.787m above the pedestal.
    (b) Right upper shaft. The length of the lower shaft being calculated at 1.907m, the upper portion will be 3.793m. Of this the top for a length of 2.256m is now in the National Museum at Athens.
    (c) A cast of a small fragment at Munich has been placed in the sawn portion of the front of the Athens fragment at the top ; its place at this altitude is certain, as it gives the top of the pattern and the sunk depression between pattern and cap.
    (d) Between the two main lengths of shaft, a small original fragment has been inserted at its correct position in the pattern.
    (e) The right capital. Less of this is preserved. The largest fragment, at Athens, shows the under member and the centre of a chevron.
    (f) An original fragment is introduced into the lower side of this capital, fitting above the Munich fragment (c) in the shaft. It gives a part of the lower member with the bed below.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1350BC-1250BC (circa)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 1.98 metres (left, part a)
    • Height: 2.72 metres (left, part b)
    • Height: 0.6 metres (left, part c)
    • Height: 0.2 metres (left, part d)
    • Height: 0.2 metres (left, part e)
    • Height: 1.86 metres (right, part a)
    • Height: 3.79 metres (right, part b, ?)
    • Height: 0.17 metres (right, part c)
    • Height: 0.28 metres (right, part d, ?)
    • Height: 0.32 metres (right, part e)
    • Height: 0.09 metres (right, part f)
  • Curator's comments

    BM Sculpture

    For left, part c, Bossert, Altkreta, 2nd ed., pl. 203; Dinsmoor, Archit. of Gr., pl. X.
    For left, part d, Durm, Baukunst, II, 1, fig. 29; Perrot and Chipiez, Hist. de l’Art, VI, p. 630, fig. 280.
    For left, part e, Furtwangler, Beschreibung der antiken Skulpturen zu Berlin, no. 993; Perrot and Chipiez, Hist. de l’Art, VI, p. 631, fig. 281.
    Right, part b, was sketched by Haller on June 19th, 1812, when it was lying outside the great mosque at Argos. His sketch gives a length of 7' 8" (= 2.237m, which closely corresponds) and he also shows a bed with two dowel holes, which would imply that the right shaft was in three portions. He indicates the taper, but introduces one repeat too many in the chevron pattern. The fragment was seen by Mure in 1838 built into a mosque at Nauplia; it was rediscovered by Fredrich in 1896, and then removed to Athens. When built into the mosque, the front surface was sawn off to give a flat surface. This is represented in the restoration by a cast, placed immediately under the cap, as the diameter demands.
    Michaelis, Ath. Mitt., 1896, pp. 124-126.
    [An important fragment of shaft was sketched by Ittar (Elgin Portfolio, II, 19). It belongs to the top of a shaft, as it shows the moulding, but it is difficult to place. As drawn it is 1.07m in length, but in respect of the termination of the pattern it agrees with neither right nor left shaft. As redrawn out fairly in the Elgin drawings, the moulding is placed by error at the wrong end of the design, i.e., the end with two side chevrons instead of a central chevron. Ittar's finished drawing is reproduced in Perrot and Chipiez VI, p. 632, fig. 283.]
    For right, part c, Bossert, Altkreta, 2nd ed., no. 204c; Perrot and Chipiez, VI, p. 526, fig. 206 (shown on end); Meurer in Jahrbuch, 1914, p. 4.
    Right, part d, was given to the Institute of British Architects in 1836 by Ambrose Poynter and, on the motion of W. R. Hamilton, presented by the Institute to the Museum in 1843. See Smith, no. 3; Perrot and Chipiez, Hist. de l’Art, VI, p. 631, fig. 282.
    For right, part e, Perrot and Chipiez, VI, p. 527, fig. 207, and see Michaelis as above; Noack, Baukunst, pl. 14a; Bossert, Altkreta, 2nd ed., pl. 202.
    Right, part f, was given to the Institute of British Architects in 1836 by Ambrose Poynter and transferred to the Museum in 1843, with (d).

    See also Gere, C. (2006) The Tomb of Agamemnon. Mycenae and the Search for a Hero. pp. 53-5


  • Bibliography

    • Sculpture A51 bibliographic details
    • Sculpture A52 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G6

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Most parts donated by Sligo 1905, others given to Royal Institute of British Architects in 1836 by Ambrose Poynter and transferred to the British Museum in 1843.

  • Department

    Greek & Roman Antiquities

  • Registration number



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: GAA11208

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help