Shield-shaped palette with double bird head motif

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


Height x width x thickness: 23.5 x 9.5 x 0.9 cm (9 1/4 x 3 3/4 x 5/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Cosmetic and medical

This shield-shaped (scutiform) palette of greywacke is carved with a double bird head motif at top. A protrusion between the heads would normally be expected to have a suspension hole, which is absent on this piece. A fragment of one bird head has broken away. A large fragment is also missing from one side, though it appears the remaining edges may have been reworked. One face has a slight depression, and the surface of both faces is splattered with a dark susbstance.

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