The Hunters Palette

Said to come from Tell el-Amarna, Egypt
Late Predynastic period to 1st Dynasty, about 3100 BC

Decorated with hunting scenes

Slate palettes were used as a surface on which to grind minerals, probably to be used as cosmetics. Plain slate palettes were a particularly common element of burnt assemblages in the late predynastic and early dynastic periods. This example is richly decorated, suggesting that it came from the burial of a very important person. It also suggests that it was purely ceremonial, though the undecorated circular area still indicates its original purpose.

The hunting scene can be interpreted as showing the struggle between civilized humans and the forces of chaos, as symbolized by the wild and ferocious animals . This can also be seen in a slightly different form on ceremonial palettes decorated with battle scenes in which Egyptians conquer their enemies.

Hunting was a favourite pastime of the rich from very early times. The great variety of wild animals shown here probably represents the species that could generally be found when hunting, rather than those encountered on a single expedition. These included hares, deer, ibex, ostrich and lions. Most of these animals are no longer found in Egypt. Ostriches were depicted in rock carvings in the wadis and desert margins until relatively late in Egyptian history. An offering of ostrich feathers was found at Hierakonpolis, associated with the return of the goddess Hathor from the south, heralding the inundation.

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More information


M. Stead, Egyptian life (London, The British Museum Press, 1986)

A.J. Spencer, Early Egypt, The rise of civil (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)


Length: 30.500 cm
Width: 14.000 cm

Museum number

EA 20790



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