Double bird palette

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

Findspot: Egypt, Mesaid, Tomb 148


Height x width x thickness: 4.7 x 3.1 x 0.4 cm (1 7/8 x 1 1/4 x 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Cosmetic and medical

This greywacke palette has been shaped with two opposing stylized bird heads atop a roughly rectangular body. The majority of one head has broken off and is missing, while the other head is intact. No suspension hole is evident. Both the upper and lower extents of the main palette area have a triangular notch on each side, possibly for stringing. The surface of the stone shows considerable scratching.

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 Mesaid [Mesa'eed] tomb 148, no. 1 [M/148/1]. 1910: excavated by the Harvard University–Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA by the government of Egypt.
(Accession Date: March 2, 1911)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition