Fragment of a rectangular stone palette, featuring a drilled hole in the centre of one of the short edges (presumably for suspension, either in the dwelling, on one’s person, or possibly as part of ritualistic use), manufactured from fine-grained greywacke sandstone found in the Wadi Hammamat in Egypt’s Eastern Desert. The rectangular palettes are typical of the Naqada III Period, superseding the animal-shaped (zoomorphic) palettes of the Naqada II Period, as the Egyptian state began to form and started to restrict control of the raw material and crafts people to work it. The smaller, strung, palettes are often referred to as ‘amulets’. However, experimental archaeology has shown that they can still be used to process pigments. Predynastic palettes have long been associated with pigment processing, particularly malachite and ochre. However, a 2020 study of almost 1200 extant palettes by Matt Szafran has shown that only 4.7% feature any pigment staining—this example does not show any pigment traces. Different scholars have differing ideas on what exactly the use of this pigment application could be. Some have suggested a strictly utilitarian use, with application around the eyes acting as a defence against the sun, for medicinal benefit, or even to ward off flies. Others suggest much more ritualistic uses, with the application of pigments having a tegumentary use and essentially acting as a form of mask. Palettes were not a common item and were likely only owned by the elite members of society, something that would support a more ritualistic use over a purely utilitarian one. Gift from the University of Wales Aberystwyth.
Petrie, W. M. Flinders 1921. Corpus of prehistoric pottery and palettes. British School of Archaeology in Egypt and Egyptian Research Account  (23rd year). London: British School of Archaeology in Egypt; Constable & Co.; Bernard Quaritch.
- Last modified: 18 Oct 2020