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Ivory and related materials: Roman to Islamic Periods

In the Roman Period bone very often replaced ivory, as a cheap substitute. Numerous bone carvings bear depictions of human figures (where Dionysiac themes are especially popular), religious scenes or floral motifs. Many of these bone carvings must have functioned as inlays for furniture, such as boxes. The dating of many of these bone elements remains problematic. Some of them might belong to the late Ptolemaic Period, but the bulk is most likely Roman in date; examples found at Lake Menzaleh demonstrate that production continued into the Islamic Period.

(click on the images for more examples)

bone as part of furniture
bones from 'Lake Menzaleh'

Bone and ivory were not only used for inlays. There is a wide range of smaller items also produced in this material.

game pieces
Roman hairpins

Single objects, often of unknown function (click on the images for a larger picture)

amulet (found at Amarna)
unknown function
cosmetic box (found at Qau)

compare Islamic Period chess pieces


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