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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.
By this time ivory was rarely used except for domestic articles and inlay work, but there was a revival of interest in ivory carving in 17th-century Germany and Flanders, and many elaborate and sumptuously carved objects such as candelabra, plaques, statuettes, and drinking tankards were made by highly skilled artists.
The ancient Phoenicians used ivory from Syria and Africa, and they seem to have specialized in ivory inlays for woodwork, often overpainted or encrusted with lapis lazuli or glass.
Among the earliest preclassical Aegean ivory carvings are small figures of acrobats found at Knossos in Crete and dating from the 16th century .
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.