Fish are frequently depicted in the art of the ancient Egyptians. One of the earliest of these fish images, and one of the oldest known of any fish image, is the slate palette shown here dating from aboaut 3500 B.C. Such palettes are common items in tombs of the predynastic period (ca. 4000-3200 B.C.) when Egyptian civilization was developing but Egypt was not united under one ruler. Fish were among a number of animal shapes used for the palettes, although they may have been preferred because functionally the palettes were ovoid, approaching the natural shape of generalized fish. The palettes are 15 to 20 cm long and were used apparently for grinding pigments that decorated the eyes of the owners or perhaps statues in the temples. The symbolic meaning of this fish palette, if any, is not known, but in later periods of Egyptian art fish are often a symbol of fertility.