Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Palette Depicting a Pair of Mud Turtles

Predynastic, early Naqada II
ca. 3650–3500 B.C.
From Egypt
H. 15.3 x W. 16 x Th. 0.6 cm (6 x 6 5/16 x 1/4 in.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1910
Accession Number:
Not on view
The large mud turtle, Trionyx triunguis, which inhabited the Nile River and its canals, is the subject of many palettes and this one is quite unusual in depicting a pair. The duo may represent a mating pair linking the palette’s imagery to the concept of fertility and therefore regeneration. In the Pharaonic Period, the turtle had a dual reputation, on one hand the animal was connected to chaos and disorder, and on the other, it could be a potent amulet when the turtle’s negative character was used as a protective force. Given the turtle is the subject of an implement for manufacturing pigment for eye paint, a protective interpretation seems fitting.
Purchased by the Museum from Mohammed Mohassib, Luxor, 1910.

Hayes, William C. 1953. Scepter of Egypt I: A Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Part I: From the Earliest Times to the End of the Middle Kingdom. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 24, fig. 17.

Fay, Biri 1998. "Egyptian Duck Flasks of Blue Anhydrite." In Metropolitan Museum Journal, 33, p.23; p. 24, fig. 3.

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