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The actual cult images in the innermost sanctuaries of Egyptian temples, of which none have survived, were evidently rather small, even in the largest temples.The same is often true in Hinduism, where the very simple and ancient form of the lingam is the most common.One of the most common purposes of sculpture is in some form of association with religion.Cult images are common in many cultures, though they are often not the colossal statues of deities which characterized ancient Greek art, like the Statue of Zeus at Olympia.
Relief is often classified by the degree of projection from the wall into low or bas-relief, high relief, and sometimes an intermediate mid-relief.
Relief sculpture may also decorate steles, upright slabs, usually of stone, often also containing inscriptions.
Another basic distinction is between subtractive carving techniques, which remove material from an existing block or lump, for example of stone or wood, and modelling techniques which shape or build up the work from the material.
Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions. Durable sculptural processes originally used carving (the removal of material) and modelling (the addition of material, as clay), in stone, metal, ceramics, wood and other materials but, since Modernism, there has been an almost complete freedom of materials and process.
A wide variety of materials may be worked by removal such as carving, assembled by welding or modelling, or molded, or cast.