British School of Archaeology

Different techniques of embellishing the ivory surface are exhibited by these three decorative floral designs, all from Nimrud and made by Phoenician artisans in the eighth century B.C.

The incised style, an engraving technique clearly influenced by, or adapted from, metalwork (top panel), originated in Egypt and later became characteristic of Assyria, perhaps brought there by the Hurrians of Syria and the Levant.

Often, ivoryworkers inlaid other precious materials into spaces cut into the ivory (middle panel). The Song of Songs 5:14 speaks of ivory overlaid with sappir, sometimes translated “sapphire,” but more probably lapis lazuli.

Carving in relief (bottom panel), like ivory carving in general, also began in Egypt. Whether the different techniques were the common property of the craft or whether the differences in carving methods served as a sort of trademark to identify different schools is unknown.