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date: 26 May 2024


The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium
Anthony CutlerAnthony Cutler

modern conventional term (from Greek πυξίς, “box”) for a circular or elliptical container cut from a section of elephant tusk. Most are attributed on stylistic grounds to the 5th–7th C. and to North Africa, Gaul, or Syria-Palestine, although the provenance of only two is known. Normally, pyxides do not exceed 9 cm in height, although two examples with Orphic scenes are exceptionally tall (16 cm). Elaborately carved, about 20 examples with pagan iconography and more than 40 with Old and New Testament subjects or, more rarely, scenes of martyrdom, are preserved. The diversity of subject matter represented on the outside provides a few clues as to their function. It has been argued that pyxides with scenes of Christ healing may have been used for medications and that others with the ... ...

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