Ivory Trails


What is ivory?

Why have people used ivory to make so many different kinds of object in the past?

What effect has the use of ivory had on animal populations?

How are animals being protected from the ivory trade now?


Here are a set of learning resources to help explore issues related to ivory – a hard, white material from the tusks and teeth of certain mammals, such as elephant, mammoth, hippo, sperm whale, narwhal, wild boar and walrus. This cross-curricular topic enables children to explore the relationship between humans and the natural world, providing excellent discussion points in literacy. The resources are pitched for Key Stage 2 and designed to be used flexibly both in the Museum and in the classroom, but could also be used at home.

Illustration of a sperm whale

Resources about Ivory Objects at the Museum




Illustration of a narwhal

The Ivory resource guides you round ivory objects made from different animals in the Museum and explores why people have used ivory to make a particular object.

Illustration of an elephant

The Elephant Ivory resource focuses on objects made from elephant ivory in the Museum and how this affected elephant populations around the world.



Both the resource sets include:

  • Self-guided trail (downloadable PDF for use in Museum)
  • Interactive map (For classroom use)
  • Teacher resource (For further information)

How did the resources get created?

These resources have been created in partnership with Dr Ashley Coutu, the African Archaeology Research Curator and Deputy Head of Research at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Ashley’s work has entailed extensive research of ivories in natural history and archaeological collections across Europe, North America and Africa. She looks at the relationship between humans and animals in the past and applies that knowledge to modern conservation.

necklace made from two boar tusks, a necklace made from sperm whale teeth, and a comb and armlet made from elephant tusk
Illustration of a group of boars

Resources for the Classroom - Ivory

Teacher Resources 










Download this pdf for more information about animals used for ivory. 

Interactive Slides

Journey via map to find out about different types of animals that have been used to make ivory (it's not just elephants!).





Illustration of a mammoth and elephant facing each other

Resources for the Classroom - Elephant Ivory


Teacher Resources 












Download this pdf for more information about elephants. 


For more information about legal status of elephant ivory in museums see updates from the Museum Association and Government details on the Ivory Act 2018.


Interactive Slides

Journey via elephant map to find out about ivory from different species of elephant.



Download this transcript for an alternative text-based version of the content on the slides. (Coming soon.)


a puzzle ball, die, bookmark and bracelet made from elephant ivory