Horse Bit

Date: 7th–9th century

Geography: Made in Andalusia, Spain

Culture: Visigothic or Byzantine

Medium: Iron inlaid with copper alloy, gold, and silver

Dimensions: Overall: 10 5/8 x 7 1/16 x 5 5/16 in. (27 x 18 x 13.5 cm)

Classification: Metalwork-Iron

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1947

Accession Number: 47.100.24


This elaborately decorated horse bit has a large tongue that would have been inserted into the horse's mouth, while the reins would have been strung through the openwork plaques. The delicate bit would only control a quiet horse and was probably used strictly for ceremonial purposes. The rich inlaid decoration includes Greek monograms, human faces, animal heads, and vine scrolls. The monograms may have been copied from or inspired by Byzantine art and are used to indicate the importance of the horse's owner.