© Erich Lessing

Two women, back to back, were carved from a single piece of ivory to create a handle, probably of a mirror or some similar object. Found in a palace at the ancient Assyrian site of Kalah (Nimrud), destroyed in 612 B.C., the handle measures almost 7 inches high.

Long prized for its resemblance, when polished, to the warmth and seductive delicateness of human flesh, ivory was often used by ancient craftsmen for representations of the human body. Sometimes, as is the case in this handle, gold leaf was fixed to the object with glue.

Solomon’s palace, too, no doubt displayed similar ivory works of art, plated with fine gold.