Rock Crystal Statuette of a Dolphin

Date: 3rd–5th century

Culture: Roman or Byzantine

Medium: Rock crystal

Dimensions: Overall: 2 1/16 x 6 5/16 x 1 1/4 in. (5.2 x 16.1 x 3.2 cm)

Classification: Lapidary Work-Crystal

Credit Line: Bequest of Ada Small Moore, 1955

Accession Number: 55.135.9


In the Roman and Byzantine world, rock crystal was believed to have magical qualities, particularly potent for healing various ailments and protecting against disease. The Roman naturalist Pliny believed rock crystal to come from snow. This dolphin statuette was one of five rock-crystal objects found in a cistern in Carthage (now in Tunisia, North Africa).