Ivory, Steatite, Enamel, and Glass

Anthony Cutler

in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199252466
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

 Ivory, Steatite, Enamel, and Glass

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Scholarly and/or scientific analysis of specimens provides evidence that objects during the Byzantine Era were manufactured in ivory, steatite, enamel, and glass. In contrast, literary and documentary sources offer information on the use of such objects. This discrepancy between production and consumption partly explains why it has often been assumed that these artefacts were made predominantly in Constantinople, a conclusion which has so far not supported by archaeology. The testimony of the spade shows that ivory in Late Antiquity was used for domestic objects in the vicinity of Alexandria and in Rome, together with many more pieces of worked bone. Ivory would be replaced by steatite as the carving material of choice, which is believed to have led to the virtual disappearance of ivory working in Byzantium as a consequence of the Italian domination of maritime trade in the eastern Mediterranean in and after the twelfth century. Middle Byzantine clients and craftsmen readily accepted steatite as well as enamel. This article also describes glass production and glass uses in Byzantium.

Keywords: Byzantium; ivory; steatite; enamel; glass; carving; Rome; Alexandria; Mediterranean

Article.  4010 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Middle Eastern Languages

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