Early visible traces
Most of the artifacts from 1400 BC to 500 BC are found from an area that is nowadays Syria, Iraq and Iran. The FOL topic is a tough topic to research in the Near East because of:
- Immature web technologies used on museum websites, lack of public online collections
- Current political situation, which effectively limits traveling in the Near East
- Illegal trade of the antiquities that has been continuing for the last two hundred years1
- Massive destruction of the archeological sites and museum collections by religious fundamentalists
There are just a few scholarly works that refer to the FOL, often with an association to the six-petal rosette figure. At some point, this particular geometrical motif arrived from the mainland to Cyprus, Samos, and Miletos. This can be read from the history of the Greek vases2 by B.B. Shefton (pages 47-57):
...it presents us with a rosette motif that, while it is not often found in Greek art, has a story to it of considerable interest, one that has only partially been explored by previous investigators... the net pattern first half of ninth century BC ... from Samaria are the earliest ones known to me, if indeed their early date can still be maintained... Earliest occurrence known to me is on the underside of a Middle Geometric Attic pyxis from the Kerameikos, that is to say some time in the second quarter of the eighth century...
The Greeks didn't use the motif in its full extent. They were mostly interested in the six-petal rosette form of the FOL. It is still notable that the golden plates with a six-petal rosette decoration existed in Mycenae (pic. 6.1.1), Greece as early as 1600 BC. Ivory whorls (pic. 6.1.5) with the FOL decoration existed in Cyprus, 1600 BC. Shefton didn't mention anything about earlier dating goblets from Marlik that dated earlier (pic. 6.1.3 1400 BC) or about wooden lids from Egypt (pic. 6.1.2 1500 BC). All these artifacts exist in the middle of the second millennium, which is much earlier than "the second quarter of the eighth century". Gazelle cup3 from Iran is from 1000 BC.
Around 700 BC, Phoenicians in Nimrud decorated ivory items like the pyxis, the elephant tusk and the plaque with the FOL symbol. The use of the symbol is very conventional because Phoenicians stayed right in the center of Levant. Levant is half way from Egyptian kingdom to Mesopotamia, where the major trade of goods, skills, and knowledge was made for thousands of years.
Stone door sills (pic. 6.1.8) having the FOL decoration existed in the King Ashurbanipal temple in Nineveh, 645 BC. Stone carpets have been decorated with flowers with six petals (continuous FOL pattern). Assyrian Carpets in Stone4 by Pauline Albenda lists several similar stone carpets from Nimrud. But she also seems to be unaware of Marlik culture goblets or of the existence of the Egyptian FOL ornament.
Oldest instance of the FOL that I have found in the Asia is from Maharashtra (pic. 6.1.10), India, 200 – 100 BC. It is an arch decoration from the Buddhist Bedse caves. In the Caves of Bedse5 blog, it is mentioned that decoration motifs around the cave are similar to Greco-Assyrian style. Newer instances in the East comprise of a marble floor decoration in the Indian Sikh temple (pic. 6.3.7) and Chinese Lion-Dog sculptures (pic. 6.3.6). But these are rather modern day objects having the FOL.