An Egyptian Pre-Dynastic Slate Palette, ca. 3500 - 3000 BCE
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Used to grind mineral pigments, this slate palette takes the form of a stylized fish, with a wide circular body and short stubby tail, both sides showing wear from ample use in antiquity.
Palettes such as this example were used as surfaces on which to grind green or black pigments into powder. After adding a gum-like adhesive to the powder, the mixture was applied as eye makeup. Many take the shape of an animal as palettes were personal items and the ancient Egyptians wanted to refect the traits and symbols of their chosen animal.
The Nile fish was far more widespread during Naqada II than I or III, and of those, the fish are almost exclusively tilapia. Also referred to as the bolti, they were associated with the cycle of rebirth and symbolic of fertility and regeneration.
cf. Petrie, Corpus of Slate Palettes, Pl. LV, no. 46H
Diana Crait Patch, Dawn of Egyptian Art, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2011), p. 26.
Dimensions: Diameter: 3 1/2 inches (8.9 cm)
Condition: Showing signs of usage with losses to the edges as shown but overall intact and in good condition.
Provenance: Private NYC collection, ex. Phillips Auctions, NY, about 1977, old collection or excavation number 4507 marked in antique ink on one side.