Detail of the Battlefield Palette

The lower half of a palette of grey mudstone: together with a cast of another fragment in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The palette is decorated on both faces with scenes in low relief. On one face, two long-necked gazelles (gerenuk) are browsing on a central date-palm. Behind the head of one animal (on the Oxford fragment) is a bird with a hooked beak, possibly a form of guinea-fowl.

The other face bears a scene showing prisoners and the casualties of battle, the latter being preyed upon by vultures, ravens and a lion. It has been suggested that the lion represents the king defeating his enemies, but it may simply be intended as a scavenger like the vultures. Near the top of the main fragment, a bound captive stands in front of a figure clad in a long cloak, whilst the smaller (Oxford) fragment bears two figures of captives gripped by the standards of the ibis and the falcon. The space towards the top of the palette seems to have been devoted to more representations of the slain.

Detail of the Battlefield Palette
Detail of the Battlefield Palette

On the right-hand edge of the Oxford fragment, in front of the two captives, is the circular plain area surrounded by a raised ridge, derived from cosmetic palettes. The defeated people are bearded, have curled hair, and are circumcised. A cast of the fragment in the Ashmolean Museum is attached.

Predynastic Period, Naqada III, ca. 3100 BC. Mudstone, from Abydos. Now in the British Museum. EA20791

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