Turtle palette

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


Height x width x depth: 13.8 x 10.2 x 0.5 cm (5 7/16 x 4 x 3/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World


Cosmetic and medical

This palette of greywacke is carved in the shape of a turtle. Its head is a thin projection from a roughly circular body. The eyes are partially drilled indentations with no trace of inlay. The mouth, or possibly tongue, is protrudes slightly from head. Four legs are indicated by short stumps with incised lines to indicate five digits. A suspension hole has been drilled on hind part of animal. There is very minor evidence of use in center of one face. Some edges are very slightly chipped, but otherwise the palette is intact.

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