Cosmetic palette - ROM2016_15062_33


Cosmetic palette

Medium:Siltstone (Egyptian slate)
Geography: Undetermined site, Upper Egypt
Date: c. 5000-3100 BC
Period: Predynastic Period
2 x 12.5 cm
Object number: 979X2.61
Not on view

This shallow circular slate palette was meant to be used for the preparation of the ancient Egyptian eye cosmetic called kohl.  This was prepared as needed by placing a small amount of a natural pigment, such as galena or malachite, in the depression of the palette and then grinding it into a fine powder.  Water and probably a binding agent, such as gum would be added to form a paste which would then be applied around the eyes. This would help reduce the glare of the sun and possibly protect against infection as well as enhancing the appearance of the wearer. Signs of wear in the centre of the palette suggest that it was used by the deceased before being buried with its owner. The palette has a flat circular base and four flanges at the rim, each measuring c. 2 cm across; in section the flanges are hemispheric about 1 cm deep.  The flanges and flat base would be used to keep the palette steady during the grinding process.  Slate palettes such as this are among the most common grave goods found in Predynastic Egyptian burials. (S.B. Shubert)

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