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. Political situation, illegal trade of the antiquities that has been continuing for the last two hundred years, immature web technologies on museum websites and many other things in Near East makes the whole FOL topic really hard subject to research. There are just a few scholarly works that refer to the FOL, often with an association to the six-petal rosette figure. Anyway, at some point this geometrical motif arrived from mainland to Cyprus (being a cult site of Aphrodite), Samos and Miletos (both being birthplaces of famous mathematicians, namely Pythagoras and Thales). This can be read from the history of the Greek vases (pages 47-57) by B.B. Shefton:
“…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…”
Greeks, however, didn’t use the motif in its full extent, but were mostly interested in its six-petal rosette form. It is still notable that golden plates having a six-petal rosette decoration comes from Greece Mycenae [item 1] as early as 1600 BC and an ivory whorl [item 5] from Cyprus (1300 – 1100 BC) which Shefton didn’t mention. Shefton also didn’t mention anything about earlier dating goblets from Marlik [item 3] or about a wooden lid from Egypt [item 2].
Phoenicians in Nimrud around 700 BC decorated ivory items like pyxis [item 8], elephant tusk [item 10] and plaque [item 11] with the FOL symbol. Use of the symbol is very natural as they stayed right in the center of Levant, ie. half way from Egyptian kingdom to Mesopotamia, where all major trade of goods, skills and knowledge was made for thousands of years. Stone door sills [item 13] having a decoration drawn with a compass and giving the effect of flowers with six petals (continuous FOL pattern) are from King Ashurbanipal temple in Nineveh, 645 BC. Assyrian Carpets in Stone by Pauline Albenda (1978) lists several similar stone carpets from Nimrud, but also she seems to be unaware of Marlik culture goblets or Egyptian existence of the ornament.
Oldest instance of the FOL that I have found in the Asia is from Maharashtra, India, 200 – 100 BC [item 16]. It is an arch decoration from the Buddhist Bedse caves. It is also mentioned that decoration motifs around the cave is similar to Greco-Assyrian style. Newer instances comprise of Chinese Lion-Dog sculptures [item 34] and a marble floor decoration in a Sikh temple [item 35].