Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Hunters Palette (Louvre)


Hunters Palette

The Hunters Palette or Lion Hunt Palette is a 5,000-year-old cosmetic palette is among the few objects that feature the earliest Egyptian bas-reliefs from the late predynastic period of Naqada III. The Hunters Palette is decorated on one side only with scenes in low relief showing iconography of lion hunting as well as the hunting of other animals such as birds, desert hares, and gazelles. Three men carry the standards denoting different tribes or provinces, and the other men carry weapons, which include the bow, spear, mace, throw-stick and a rope used for tethering. Two iconographic conjoined bull-forefronts adorn the upper right alongside a hieroglyphic symbol.

The palette is broken and part of it is held by the British Museum and part is in the collection of the Louvre. Originating in the late prehistory of Egypt at of around 3100 BC, the Hunters Palette is one of the very few cosmetic palettes found and represent archaeological artefacts, initially used in predynastic Egypt to grind and apply ingredients for cosmetics. The decorative palettes of the late 4th millennium BCE appeared to have lost their cosmetic function and became commemorative and ornamental objects.D

During the fourth millennium BC, early Egyptians of the lower Nile valley used elaborate stone palettes to grind eyeshadow. It is assumed that the eyeshadow was green, made from copper ore and that the ritual played an essential role in their ceremonial or religious customs. The palettes eventually became art objects and treasured objects that were later placed with the deceased in their tombs.

Reflections on cosmetic palettes

Cosmetic use and the application of eyeshadow played an important ritual role in early Egyptian culture and must have been viewed as imbuing special powers. How did their attitudes to the use of cosmetics vary from our practice today?

Suggestions for Further Exploration

Hunters Palette

  • Title:                Hunters Palette
  • Date:                circa 3100 BCE
  • Culture:           Naqada III period
  • Find Spot:        El-Amarna, Egypt
  • Materials:       Grey mudstone
  • Dimensions:   c. 66 cm x 26 cm
  • Acquisition:    1888
  • Museums:       Louvre;  The British Museum


“Experience will show you, a master can only point the way.”
– Egyptian Proverbs


Photo Credit: 1) British Museum [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons