Narmer Palette

The Narmer Palette

The Narmer Palette
The Narmer palette


The Narmer palette is one of the most famous pieces of the Egyptian museum; it is a piece that is made out of greywacke schist. “Quibel discovered it in 1894 at “Hierakonpolis” which is near modern days  “Edfu”.

This piece is extremely important because it tells us about who unified Egypt after Egypt was divided into two separate lands known as Upper and Lower Egypt. This division lasted probably more approximately from 5,000 years B.C until 3,000 years B.C when the unification took place by “Narmer”.

The capital was called “Ineb-Hedj ” in ancient Egyptian language which means “The White wall”, it is at the site of “Memphis” or Meet Rahina nowadays. Memphis originated from the name of the pyramid of Pepi “Mn nfr” This palette or slate has a recto (front) and a verso (rear) side, starting with the description of the recto side, which has three-registers; The first register has “two bovine-figures” or two cows of the “goddess Bat” who is flanking on both sides of a “serekh”.

A serekh is a hieroglyphic word for the “Facade of a palace” in which they used to write the name of their kings since the 0 dynasty dynasty, the reign of “King Huni” and in this serekh there rd all the way to the 3 is a representation of the name of “King Narmer” in hieroglyphics represented as a fish for the word ‘Nar’ and a chisel for ‘Mer’ which means “The digger of the two canals” referring to the two lands of ancient Egypt. The second register has the king represented on a much larger scale wearing his white crown of Upper Egypt called ” Hedjet ” in ancient Egyptian language.

The king is represented holding a mace head with one hand as a symbol of power and control and in the lower hand he grasps the head of one of his enemies. The king’s muscular body is extremely well represented with all the fine details including his chest muscles, leg muscles and knee muscles.

The king wears a kilt or a “Shndid” in hieroglyphics, behind that kilt you can clearly see a lion’s tail which is a symbol of power during the dynastic era. However, during the predynastic times hunters wore this tail whenever they wished the animals to approach them by smelling the animal smell and not the human smell. Behind the figure of the king, is a representation of his “sandal-bearer” who holds a pot in one of his hands to wash the king’s feet after war while in his other hand he holds up the king’s sandals. It was thought kings used to go to war barefoot.

In front of the king is a “kneeling enemy” which is most probably a northern enemy from Lower Egypt who has on top of him papyri reeds or plants with a representation of a falcon on top who is the falcon of “God Horus”; the god of living and protection. So this whole battle took place under his supervision. The third and last register of the recto side has the representation of two of these enemies fleeing or running away, in front of their faces are two hieroglyphic symbols that are either thought to be their names or possibly the places where they come from.

The other side or the verso side, has four-registers in total number, the first register is identical to the other side showing the “two bovine figures” of “Goddess Bat” once again flanking the “Serekh” or Narmer’s name, the fish and chisel meaning “the digger of the two canals”. The second register is the “coronation parade”, where there is a representation of a small rectangle, which is the palace.

Narmer Palette

Below the palace is a representation of the sandal-bearer once again and in front of him, of largest scale of all is the king wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt called “Deshret” in hieroglyphics, having his name written in front of him in the form of a fish and a chisel but this time not in a Serekh.

The third figure has a title written in front of it which says “Thaty” in hieroglyphics that means “Vizier” or the prime-minister of the king, who was also believed to be his scribe because there are scribal tools on his shoulders. Then the four small figures are four standard bearers representing the four corners of Egypt, all four cardinal points. As this whole parade takes place towards the temple of Horus who is found on top of the decapitated enemies there in a small boat.

The decapitated enemies have their heads in between their legs, note two of these enemies feet are in one direction, probably these are not soldiers but are two officers of higher position.

The third register has the “Unification symbol”, having two imaginary animals represented as two lions with giraffe necks which are interlocked with each other symbolizing Upper and Lower Egypt not being pulled away as a proof that the unification will still take place no matter how hard the figures above the animals try to pull away.

Finally, the fourth and last register has a bull, which is the king in the form of power, stepping on an enemy and going into a fortress as we are sure it is a fortress because there is a representation of the recess paneling and a tent is found inside the fortress. This palette dates back to approximately 3,000 years B.C, 0 dynasty, which means this palette is more than 5,000 years old.

Narmer Palette Narmer Palette was discovered by Quibell in 1894 in Hierakonpolis (El-Kom Al-Ahmar), near Edfu. It’s made of schist. Introduction about king Narmer : The dynasties started with the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. This was achieved by a great battle between an Upper king Called Narmer and the people of Lower Egypt.

This palette depicts his victory in unifying the two lands. Maybe its original use was to grind eye kohl (malachite) because of some scratches that were found in the circular core in the middle indicating that something was pressed against it.

Description of the palette. The palette has 2 sides, recto side and verso side. The Recto side is divided into 3 registers, and they are:

The first register:

The first register on both sides (recto and verso) of the palette is decorated with two heads of Goddess Bat, it is thought that she was the earliest preference of Goddess Hathor, the Goddess of Music, and beauty. She has the face features of a human lady, while 2 ears of a cow and horns.

The Narmer Palette

In the Middle of the two heads we have what is called Serekh which means the façade of the palace. The Serekh contains 2 signs in it: a fish sign for Nar, and a chisel for Mer, which means (The Digger of canals). It is thought that Goddess Hathor was depicted here to protect the King’s name.

The second register: We can see that king Narmer was depicted here twice the size of other people represented with him. The king is standing wearing the White crown of upper Egypt, a false beard, and a Shendid (kilt) as well as a tail of an oxen, that’s attached to the kilt as a sign of power.

He is also represented barefooted and catching one of his enemies by his left hand, while he raises his right hand with a mace-head over his enemy, in a way that shows  the power and that the king is about to punish his enemy. Behind the king there is a representation of a man carrying by one of his hands the king’s sandal; this man is the sandal bearer.

The Narmer Palette
The Narmer Palette

By his other hand he carries a vase, which is filled with water to be used by the king after the ceremonies are finished to purify his feet, and sandals. Above his head there are hieroglyphic signs that may be his name.

God Horus is represented in front of the king standing over 6 papyri. It is thought that every papyrus from the 6 represents 1000 enemies, and that the total would be 6000 enemies.

The third register in Narmer Palette 

We can see 2 enemies who appear to be escaping. They are running with their heads backward as if someone is chasing them. Above their heads to the right and left there are hieroglyphic signs that might indicate their place of origin.

 King Narmer conquered many nomes of Lower Egypt so maybe that’s why each enemy has his place of origin written above his head.

 The Verso side : This side is divided into 4 registers: The first register: It is the same as the first register on the Recto side. 

The second register: This scene starts from left to right. It shows the sandal bearer again, behind the king and he is represented exactly as on the recto side. Above his head there is a rectangular shape which may be the palace of king Narmer and that the Sandal bearer came out from it. The king is represented in front of the sandal bearer in a larger size, wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt after a victory as this area had come under his control.

This time the king’s name is written in front of him, but without a Serekh to say that he is the same person on the other side of the palette. A man of smaller size is walking in front of the king and from the title above his head (TAty) we know that he is a vizier. He is holding what looks like writing tools, and in front of him there are four standard bearers, that maybe represent the four famous provinces of Egypt. In front of all these there are 10 decapitated enemies with their heads between their legs.

Two of the dead enemies have twisted legs, which may mean that they were military officers or maybe because of lack of space. Above them, you can see a boat in front of which stands God Horus. So the whole scene looks like the king has come out of his palace and is going to a special ceremonial procession on the temple of Horus.

The third part: In this register we can see a representation of two men holding mythological animals that have the head and bodies of lions and the necks of giraffes or snacks, and they are making with their necks the core for grinding the eye kohl. This is a symbol that the king has established stability in the country by unifying Upper and Lower Egypt.

What Egypt's Narmer Palette Tells Us About Dynastic Egypt's Origins
What Egypt’s Narmer Palette Tells Us About Dynastic Egypt’s Origins

It is said that the two men may represent the enemies of the unification and that they try to destroy the unification, but it’s impossible because the two mythological animals made their necks in a twisted shape that’s hard to be separated.

The last register: We found the king represented as a strong Ox as a symbol of his power. The Ox is destroying the fortress of a city and trampling on his enemy in a reference to the king’s control over the city and its people. 


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