Tray handle

Late Period, dynasty 26
664–525 B.C.

Findspot: Egypt, Tell Dafana (Daphnae)


Height x width: 13.9 x 6 cm (5 1/2 x 2 3/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Tools and equipment

Strategically located on the main caravan route north to Syria and Palestine, the site of Tell Dafana (ancient Daphnae) at the northeast corner of the Delta was a frontier fortress and trading center. Psammetichus I stationed his expert troops of Ionian and Carian mercenaries there. Judging from the finds - Greek painted pottery, iron weapons, and scale armor - of the site’s excavation in 1886 by Flinders Petrie for the Egypt Exploration Fund, the population was predominantly Greek. The town flourished in the reign of Amasis (570-526 B.C.), to which period most of the Greek painted pottery from Dafana may be dated.

This elegant gold handle is unique. Nothing like it had been found before at Dafana or anywhere else. Petrie surmised it was soldier’s loot. It was discovered folded in half lengthwise, obviously wrenched from the vessel it supported, along with about one and a half pounds of silver in lumps. The two straps were originally bent at a right angle just below the lotuses, presumably to support a tray. The thickness of the gold supports this assumption.

The handle takes the form of two lotuses and palmettes, joined at the top, and originally inlaid or prepared for inlay with enamel or stone. The lotus-and- palmette motif is Egyptian in origin, going back at least to Dynasty 18. By the Late Period it had become a fixture in Greek and Near Eastern art as well, part of an international vocabulary of decorative forms. So although it is Egyptian, the style of this piece would have appealed to a wide international audience.


From Tell Dafana (Daphnae), camp southeast of fort. 1886-87: excavated by W. M. F. Petrie for the Egypt Exploration Fund; assigned to the Egypt Exploration Fund by the government of Egypt; given to the MFA by the Egypt Exploration Fund.
(Accession date: June 24, 1887)

Credit Line

Egypt Exploration Fund by subscription