Double bird palette

Early Dynastic Period, Dynasty 1
2960–2770 B.C.

Findspot: Egypt, Deir el-Ballas, Tomb 103


Height x width x depth: 12.5 x 9.7 x 0.7 cm (4 15/16 x 3 13/16 x 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Cosmetic and medical

This greywacke palette is roughly shield-shaped (scutiform) with somewhat squat, wide proportions. Its top is carved with a highly stylized double bird head motif.
A suspension hole is drilled at the center of the top. Grinding marks appear on one side, indicating use. The lower right portion is chipped. This palette was found associated with pieces of galena.

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 Ballas, Tomb B 103 (103/5). 1900-1901: excavated by George A. Reisner for the Hearst Egyptian Expedition of the University of California (which became the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition in 1905); by 1947: at Harvard Camp, Giza; 1947: shipped to the MFA from Harvard Camp.
(Accession Date: January 1, 1947)

Credit Line

Brought from Harvard Camp