Double bird palette

Predynastic Period
Naqada I–II, 3850–3300 B.C.

Findspot: Egypt, Mesaid, Tomb 197


Height x width x thickness: 6.3 x 10 x 0.4 cm (2 1/2 x 3 15/16 x 3/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Cosmetic and medical

This greywacke palette is in the shape of two stylized bird heads with drilled eyes. One head is broken and mended, but still missing small chips and restored at the crown. The upper portion of the opposite head has also been restored. A roughly rectangular projection between the heads forms a handle with a suspension hole flanked by two notches for stringing. Two additional holes are drilled near the rounded lower edge of the palette, of similar size as the birds’ eyes.

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.

For a very similar palette see object 11.228.


From Mesaid [Mesa'eed] tomb 197, no. 3 [M/197/3]. 1910: excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; 1911: assigned to the MFA by the Egyptian government.
(Accession Date: March 2, 1911)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition