Bag/shell/turtle-shaped (?) palette

Predynastic Period
Naqada III 3300–2960 B.C.

Findspot: Egypt, Naga el-Hai (Qena), Tomb K 128


Width: 13 cm (5 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Cosmetic and medical

This light greywacke palette is of squat, bag-shaped proportions, possibly intended to imitate a bivalve shell or a highly stylized turtle form. It is wide and rounded at one end, narrowing to a squared off edge at the other, where a double-drilled suspension hole was placed. Edges chipped. One face shows evidence of wear.

Stone palettes are identified particularly with earlier periods of ancient Egyptian history. Non-functional (in the utilitarian sense), often elaborately decorated “ceremonial” examples are known. Often simpler, functional examples were used to grind and mix mineral-based pigments (including ocher, malachite, hematite) that were often mixed with other substances to make cosmetics or other decorative media.


From Naga el-Hai (Qena), Tomb K 128. 1913: Excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA by the government of Egypt.
(Accession Date: December 4, 1913)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition