Narmer’s Palette (Egyptian Museum)

Having just returned from a 12-day tour of Egypt, I want to share some of our photos in upcoming posts, beginning with some from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

One of the very significant displays considered to be “of major artistic and historical importance” (Illustrated Guide to the Egyptian Museum, eds. Bongioanni and Croce, p. 28, discussed in “Protodynastic and Predynastic Periods”) is the Narmer Palette. This votive tablet “is the earliest record from Egypt (Chronicle of the Pharaohs, Clayton, p.18).

Gary Byers wrote:

More than 100 years ago, archaeologists excavated an ancient Egyptian temple in the Upper Egyptian city of Hierakonpolis. Here they discovered a stone palette used to grind cosmetics, with carving on both sides. One side had the picture of a man wearing the crown of Upper Egypt, and the other side had a man wearing the crown of Lower Egypt. Scholars decided the picture on each side was the same man, and his name was Narmer. This was the earliest representation of anyone wearing the crowns of both Upper and Lower Egypt. It suggests that this was the first king of a united Egypt.

Byers, G. A. (2003). The Scorpion King. Bible and Spade, 15(3), 28.

The Narmer Palette. Photo ©Leon Mauldin. Egyptian Museum.

The hieroglyphs of the royal name are a mud fish depicted horizontally above a vertical chisel, read as the name of Narmer (Chronicles, 18). He is shown in as wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt (the hedjet) and the Red Crown of Lower Egypt (dishret), indicating that he is now king of both lands, i.e., the unification of the country is commemorated. Narmer is presented as a victorious king, smiting a prisoner with his mace. This became an icon of majesty from ancient Egyptian history down to Roman times.

At the top are facing heads of the cow-faced goddess Hathor. The Horus falcon is depicted in front of Narmer.

On the obverse of the Palette the king is escorted by officials towards two rows of decapitated corpses.

Obverse of the Narmer Palette. Photo ©Leon Mauldin. Egyptian Museum.

Click images for larger view.

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