The earlier examples take the form of small nude female figures.The carvings of animals belong to the succeeding Magdalenian period, and many of these have great merit.Many combs, hairpins, and other utensils dating from the predynastic and early dynastic periods have been found at various sites, and to the same period probably belong some crudely carved nude female figures that were likely worn as amulets to ward off evil or harm.Among the masterpieces of early Egyptian carving are two statuettes, both found at Abydos; one represents a king of the 1st dynasty, while the other depicts the 4th-dynasty king Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza.Romanesque ivory carvings of reliquaries, tau crosses, and bishops’ pastoral staffs display a multiplicity of styles, depending on the country of origin.During the Romanesque and the succeeding Gothic period, the West’s artistic emphasis shifted from the decoration and embellishment of sacred objects to the building of cathedrals, monumental paintings, and stained glass.The great change came with power-driven rotary saws for cutting and peeling the ivory and with dental drills for carving it easily and quickly.These machine tools spread from Europe to Asia in the mid-20th century and are now in universal use for carving ivory.
Elephant tusks and hippopotamus teeth were carved from a very early period in ancient Egypt.
From ancient times ivory has been considered an article of luxury because of its qualities of fine grain, creamy light colour, smooth texture, and soft lustre.
Ivory has been carved in such widely varied cultures as those of ancient Egypt, China, Japan, and India.
Carvings made of ivory, bone, and horn are numerous from certain periods of the Stone Age.
Most of the carvings have been found in southern France, particularly in the Dordogne region.