Elephant tusk

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Oliphant horn
MFA# 57.581
African Elephant


The source of true Ivory. Long, curved elephant tusks are rootless incisors that are not covered with enamel. The size and structure of a tusks depends on the animal, its age and its living conditions. Tusks as long as 6-8 feet have been obtained from African elephants. The Indian elephants produce tusks about 4-5 feet long. The tusks are primarily composed of Dentin, a hard calcareous material; a new layer of dentin is added each season. This produces a layered ring structure that can be seen in fresh ivory. Deteriorated ivory tends to flake and peel along these lines.

Synonyms and Related Terms

ivory; presa ("dente") de elefante (Port.); slagtand van een olifant (Ned.)

Resources and Citations

  • The Dictionary of Art, Grove's Dictionaries Inc., New York, 1996 Comment: F. Minney "Ivory"
  • Hermann Kuhn, Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art and Antiquities, Butterworths, London, 1986
  • Henry Hodges, Artifacts: An Introduction to Early Materials and Technology, Ronald P. Frye, Kingston, Canada, 1988