Carving as Craft

Book Details

Author  Archer St. Clair
Publisher  Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication Date   July 28, 2003
ISBN  0801872618
Pages  244

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From 1989 to 1994 more than fifteen hundred bone and ivory objects were excavated from the northeast slope of Rome's Palatine Hill. These remains constitute the largest such find in the western Mediterranean and the first traces of the actual working of ivory in Rome itself. In this original work, art historian Archer St. Clair explores the significance of these finds in understanding both the development of artisanship in Rome and the broader Greco-Roman cultural and artistic tradition to which they belong.

Dating primarily from the first through the fifth century C.E., the carved objects include ornamentation for furniture and boxes in the form of plaques and framing strips, jewelry, dolls, a wide variety of pins, as well as smaller numbers of handles, needles, and other implements. Also present at the site was extensive evidence of a bone and ivory workshop, including prepared blanks and waste fragments that provide valuable evidence for artisanal practices in both materials. This volume includes a representative catalog of 648 objects from Palatine East, extensively illustrated with photographs and detailed drawings. Four chapters of introductory material offer a comprehensive overview of the material properties of bone and ivory, the literary evidence, and wider context of their use in the ancient world, and the particular significance of the Palatine East site.

While bone has often been treated simply as an inferior and less valuable alternative to ivory, St. Clair notes the close association in their use and elucidates a complex relationship between them. In doing so, she offers a detailed, contextual study of the uses, social perception, and distribution of the two materials, revealing a shared Mediterranean vocabulary of form and technique.

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