Siltstone palette



Accession Number
EC128
Current Location
House of Life (first floor), Predynastic case
Object Type
Implements and utensils, Cosmetic and medical equipment and implements, Palette
Period
Predynastic Period
Naqada I to Naqada III
Material
Stone/minerals (Greywacke)
Provenance
Egypt
Measurements
Length: 176mm | Width: 112mm | Depth: 11mm
Number of Elements
1

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Description

A fragment of a stone palette manufactured from fine-grained greywacke sandstone found in the Wadi Hammamat in Egypt’s Eastern Desert. This fragment could be from a Naqada I Period rhomboid shaped palette, or it could also possibly be from a Naqada II to Naqada III Period shield-shaped (scutiform) palette. The label 'EGYPT/37' indicates that this object was gifted to the museum by the British Museum in 1978. 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. This palette features light surface pitting in the centre and around the edge of its recto. Surface pitting is a relatively common feature on palettes, with a 2020 study showing that 31.2% of almost 1200 extant palettes demonstrate surface pitting. It has been suggested that this is an example of use-wear caused by striking the surface of the palette, perhaps to produce a sound as component of ritual use.

Bibliography

Needler, W. 'Predynastic and Archaic Egypt in The Brooklyn Museum' p 319-326. Stevenson, A. 2009. 'Palettes' UCLA Encylopedia of Egyptology.

Other Identity
Egypt/37 (painted on object) | 303 (round white sticker) | 118 (round white sticker)
Previous Owners
Egypt Exploration Society | The British Museum
Acquisition
Gift, Via the British Museum as part of the dispersal of the disposable objects from the excavations of the Egypt Exploration Society (15 Mar 1978)
Last modified: 04 Feb 2021

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