Ivory, Steatite, Enamel, and Glass

Anthony Cutler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191743528
ISBN (Print)9780199252466
StatePublished - Nov 21 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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