Cosmetic palette

The Cosmetic palettes are archaeological artifacts originally used to grind and apply ingredients for facial or body cosmetics. The decorative palettes of the late 4th millennium BCE appear to have lost this function and became commemorative, ornamental, and possibly ceremonial. They generally were made of softer and workable stone such as slate or mudstone.

Many of the palettes were found at Hierakonpolis, a centre of power in pre-dynastic Upper Egypt. They cease to appear in tomb assemblages after the unification of the country.

Notable palettes

Notable decorative palettes are:

  • The Narmer Palette which is thought by some to depict the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the pharaoh Narmer
  • Libyan Palette
  • The Dogs Palette displaying canines, giraffes, and other quadrupeds
  • The Battlefield Palette
  • The Bulls Palette showing a bull, representing the king, goring his enemies
  • The Hunters Palette

Even undecorated palettes were often given pleasing shapes, such as the Zoomorphic palettes, which include turtles, and very commnly fish. The common fish zoomorphic palette, often had a upper-centrally formed hole, presumably for suspension, and thus display.

The Near East stone palettes are from Canaan, Bactria, and Gandhara.

History of Egyptian palettes

The first stone palettes appear in the predynastic of Ancient Egypt. They are the Rhomboidal palettes. They did not contain the later created circular mixing-pool.


  • David Wengrow, The Archaeology of Early Egypt: Social Transformations in North East Africa, Cambridge University Press 2006
  • Erik Hornung, Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: the one and the many, Cornell University Press 1982

See also

External links

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