Lenticular palette with bird head

Predynastic Period
Naqada I–III, 3850–2960 B.C.


Height x width x thickness: 10.5 x 8.5 x 0.7 cm (4 1/8 x 3 3/8 x 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Cosmetic and medical

This greywacke palette in generally lenticular shape with a small protrusion in the shape of a stylised bird head at one end. The beak has broken off. No further details are evident. A suspension hole has been drilled along an outer edge. There are no significant signs of use/wear. A slight stain appears on one face.

The shape of this palette was once categorized as a fish, the bird’s head having been misinterpreted as the rear fins of a fish. Reclassification was made by comparison with contemporary material. Additionally, fish palettes are customarily are less ovoid in proportions as this one.

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.


Said to be from Naqada. 1903: purchased for the MFA from Mohamed Mohassib, Luxor, Egypt by Albert M. Lythgoe as part of a group (03.1474-03.1490) for £4. Acquired with funds from the Emily Esther Sears Fund. (Accession Date: January 1, 1903)

Credit Line

Emily Esther Sears Fund