Shield-shaped palette with double bird motif

Early Dynastic Period, Dynasty 2
possibly 2750–2649 B.C.

Findspot: Egypt, Zawyet el-Aryan, Grave Z 107


Height x width x thickness: 27.9 x 12.1 x 0.7 cm (11 x 4 3/4 x 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Cosmetic and medical

This greywacke palette is shield-shaped (scutiform) with rounded sides, an almost pointed bottom, two bird heads carved at the top. One head has mostly broken off and is missing, and the other is chipped only at crown. A drilled eye is preserved in the better preserved head. The outer edges of the palette are slightly chipped. One surface has indications of use in the form of staining and hack marks.

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 Zawyet el-Aryan, Grave Z 107, 2 (Z/107/2). 1911: Excavated by the Harvard University–Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA by the government of Egypt.
(Accession Date: October 19, 1911)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition