Oliphant

Oliphant

Oliphant
Southern Italy
1000–1100
Museum no. 7953-1862

An oliphant is a horn formed from a whole elephant tusk. Oliphants may have been used in hunting, but are so heavy that they may equally have been symbols of status or land ownership. Oliphants are often elaborately carved, since the craftsman had the whole thickness of the ivory at his disposal. Many surviving oliphants show the influence of Islamic decoration. This example is covered with roundels containing animals with disproportionately large bodies, and tails which terminate in a palmette or tiny head. This way of depicting animals was used on Fatimid ceramics and other works of art, which were imported by sea into the coastal cities of Sicily and southern Italy