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date: 18 April 2024



  • John Boardman
  •  and Michael Vickers


Ivory (ἐλέφας, ebur), a material derived from the tusk of the Asiatic or African *elephant or the tooth of the hippopotamus. Capable of being carved in the round, or in relief, used as inlay, as a veneer, turned on a lathe, or even moulded, ivory was a multi-purpose commodity that was imported into the Mediterranean from North Africa and the Levant. The Old Persian for the Nile delta meant ‘The Tusks’. There were flourishing schools of ivory-working in bronze age Crete (see minoan civilization), but many ‘Minoan’ statuettes in museums outside Greece are suspected forgeries. Rich finds of ivory inlays at *Nimrud, Arslan Tash, and other near-eastern sites have echoes in ivory objects found at *Ephesus, *Samos, *Delphi, and in *Laconia. At all periods, *furniture was decorated with ivory plaques. Ivory was used for the flesh parts of cult statues (e.g. Phidias' chryselephantine *Athena Parthenos and his *Zeus at *Olympia), and for temple doors.


  • Greek Material Culture: Bronze Age

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