Mudstone cosmetic palette

From el-Amra, Egypt
Late Predynastic period, around 3100 BC

Decorated with the symbol of the god Min

Mudstone palettes were used to grind minerals for cosmetics. Many palettes were made in the shape of animals, fish or birds. This example incorporates two birds heads, one of which is now broken. It is possible that these creatures may have had a religious or protective meaning through their association with early forms of Egyptian animal-headed deities. Continuity between the religious cults of the Predynastic and Dynastic periods is demonstrated by the appearance of cult symbols like these, which are later identified with specific gods.

The raised relief symbol on this palette is that of the god Min. It consists of a horizontal, double headed arrow-like form, with a tall hook between the arrow's barbs. The exact interpretation of the individual elements of this symbol is uncertain. However, decoration on pots of the same period also shows this and other symbols mounted on poles, possibly as a regional insignia. The antiquity of Min is confirmed by several colossal statues of the god found at his cult centre of Coptos, on which this symbol also occurs.

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More information


T.G.H. James, An introduction to ancient Egy (London, 1979)

I. Shaw and P. Nicholson (eds.), British Museum dictionary of A (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


Length: 29.200 cm
Width: 15.300 cm

Museum number

EA 35501


Gift of the Egypt Exploration Fund


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