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by Archaeology Newsroom

Working Ivory in the Bronze Age Aegean

Alongside metals iνory (hippopotamus and/or elephant) first appears in the Aegean as a luxury import into the Prepalatial Crete. During the period of the first Palaces the range and size of products increased there and the working techniques were perfected, leading to a heyday of the craft in the phase of the Second Palaces. Thenceforth, the Mycenaeans maintained the expertise in Crete and throughout the Aegean. Their output differs somewhat in style and diversity of objects produced. Elephant and hippopotamus iνοries are different in their manner of growth and thus to a degree in how they are worked and resist time and decay. The craftsmen employed a varying toolkit (blades, points, saws, chisels and drills), mostly of copper/bronze and sometimes probably of reed/cane lor drίll-heads; they relied much on abrasiνes to cut, shape and polish their artifacts. Confirmed working areas are not common; we can guess that the social position of these craftsmen depended on those elite clients who made use of their products. The manufacture of three sets of maΙeria is reviewed in some more detaίl: the Palaikastro “kouros”, the inlays from the House of lvories at Knossos and sundry pieces from Mainland Greece (1rom Athens and Mycenae).