The Gerzeh Palette
A group of five stars depicted on the Gerzeh Palette or Hathor palette dating back to Naqada II Period. This unusual schist palette was part of a Predynastic funerary assemblage which also contained ordinary vessels. It has an oval shape that widens slightly towards the top and it is pierced so that it could be suspended. The highly stylized relief decoration on one side reproduces the head of a cow with upward curving horns and prominent ears.
Five stars are included in the composition: two at the tips of the horns, one on the top of the head, and two on either side of the ears. The image was probably designed to evoke one of the bovine-form deities – the greatest being Hathor – who in this period were identified with the heavens. This palette was actually used to grind cosmetics, as indicated by the traces of malachite still present on the reverse.
The oldest palettes discovered in Egypt date 5000-4000 BC when they were placed in tombs as part of funerary assemblages. Initially, they were rectangular in shape and were used to mix mineral pigments – malachite and galena – for eye-paint. During the Naqada I and Naqada II periods new types of palettes appeared, carved in the form of animals (turtles, fish and birds), or in the shape of a shield. In the latter case, the surfaces of the palettes were decorated with more or less stylized reliefs with magical-religious meanings.
From the late Predynastic Period, the principal use for these palettes was as offerings in temples rather than as grave goods. Examples of large size with extremely complex figurative decoration were deposited by worshipers as votives.
Gerzeh Culture, Naqada II, Predynastic Period, ca. 3500-3200 BC. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 43103