Fish-shaped palette

Predynastic Period
Naqada II–III, 3650–2960 B.C.

Findspot: Egypt, Mesaid, Tomb 16


Height x width x thickness: 13.5 x 8.5 x 0.5 cm (5 5/16 x 3 3/8 x 3/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Cosmetic and medical

This greywacke palette may be a stylized representation of a fish. Two suspension holes are drilled through at the top suggest interpretation as fish rather than a vertically oriented shield-shape. Depressions are worn into the center of both surfaces, suggestive of use. There is considerable chipping around the outer edges.

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 16, no. 7 [M/16/7]. 1910: excavated by the Harvard University–Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA in the division of finds by the government of Egypt.
(Accession Date: March 2, 1911)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition