The Ma’agan Mikhael, a 5th-century BCE Cypriot merchantman, was found off the coast of Israel in 1985. The wreck was an important find in learning more about ancient shipbuilding techniques and trade practices. After excavation and preservation the reconstructed hull was placed in the Hecht Museum in Haifa.
Three wooden boxes were found in the wreck: one in a heart shape with a pivoting lid and two violin-shaped boxes. There is plenty of evidence in the archeological records that these boxes were of a type used for cosmetic pastes and creams.
In 2004 Yigal Sitry published, “Unique Wooden Artifacts: A Study of Typology and Technology” part of a series of research articles in “The Ma’agan Mikhael Ship – The Recovery of a 2,400 Year Old Merchantman” by Yaacov Kahanov and Elisha Linder.
In his article Sitry provides a full description of the heart-shaped box and outlines, with illustrations, “the order of operations” in the making of the box (and easy for a modern woodworker to follow).
The box, before conservation that caused uneven shrinkage, measured 110 mm x 109 mm x 34.5 mm (about 4.3″ x 4.3″ x 1.4″) and was made of oak. One note: the heart-shaped box has been renamed the ivy leaf box as that shape was more consistent with shapes found in contemporary pottery and art.
The link to Yigal Sitry’s article is here.
For the “recently spurned:” Put Nirvana’s “Heart-shaped Box” on a loop, make the box, burn it, repeat.
— Suzanne Ellison