Ivory cosmetic box


British Museum

British Museum

Ivory cosmetic boxes from the Late Bronze Age (about 1650-1050 BC) have been found in many of the lands of the Eastern Mediterranean, from Greece and Cyprus to Anatolia, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. They were clearly considered desirable luxury items. Duck-shaped boxes were particularly widely distributed; a variant was shaped like a swimming girl pushing a bowl, which could be either duck-shaped or plain. It is not clear if the vessel shown here had a duck-shaped bowl, but some sort of a lid is missing so the object is a box and not a large spoon. In the richly mixed cultural world of the Late Bronze Age, ideas could pass from one area to another quickly. A fashion started in the Syro-Palestinian region could very soon be adopted or adapted in Egypt, and vice versa. The makers of Cypriot ivories incorporated influences both from the East and from the Mycenaean Greek west and it is often difficult to trace them to a specific origin. However, the carver of this particular piece had certainly looked eastwards for inspiration.

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  • Title: Ivory cosmetic box
  • Date Created: -1340/-1050
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 24.70cm (max); Width: 7.10cm; Height: 7.60cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: carved; drilled
  • Subject: swimming
  • Registration number: 1897,0401.1125
  • Production place: Made in Cyprus
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Enkomi
  • Period/culture: Late Cypriot IIC; Late Cypriot III
  • Material: ivory
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Excavated by Turner Bequest Excavations, Enkomi. Funded by Turner, Emma Tourner