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Ancient Egypt: The Narmer palette
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Northern king
Narmer, king of the North
(Photo by M.Audrain, The Glory of Egypt)

The Narmer Palette:
King of the North

The obverse side

    The obverse side is headed like the reverse side by two humanoid bovine heads and a serekh with Narmer's name.


Narmer as king of Lower Egypt and entourage     As king of Lower Egypt Narmer parades holding a mace or a sceptre and the royal flagellum. He is followed by a man bearing sandals and a basket or pot, who according to Wadell's interpretation of the hieroglyphs is a "Runner forth". He is preceded by Tjet [1], possibly his vizier, high priest, or, as has also been suggested, the queen, and four standard bearers who are carrying two falcon standards, a dog, wolf or jackal standard and what has been interpreted as a royal placenta.


Ten beheaded corpses     Ten beheaded corpses are laid out as if for inspection, their heads placed between their legs. The fact that these bodies are bound suggests that they were executed after falling into Narmer's hands. A corpse with bound arms is also depicted on the Battlefield Palette.
    Mutilation of fallen enemies was commonplace in pharaonic Egypt. During the New Kingdom cut-off hands and genitals were dedicated to Amen-Re and their tally kept by scribes.


Chimaeras     Two long-necked chimaeras [2] with bodies and heads of lionesses or panthers and snake-like necks are being held in check by two men sporting full beards which are generally the hallmark of the enemies of the Egyptian kings. They may - as has been claimed - symbolize Upper and Lower Egypt, a conclusion not self-evident to many, given the fact that similar depictions have been found in Mesopotamia.


Bull trampling enemy     A bull, symbol for the victorious king tramples a fallen enemy. Some later kings used the epithet Victorious Bull, e.g. Thutmose III speaking of his ka as "a victorious bull who shone in the rings of Thebes" or the Horus name of Amenhotep III which was "Horus Victorious Bull who Appears in Life".


[1] Tjet : It has also been suggested that the two signs above what is obviously an official of sorts stand for a title or a function rather than a name.
[2] Serpopards on Den's palette chimaeras : Serpopards appear in Elamite and Sumerian drawings. In Egypt similar depictions have been found, like this one from the Den palette found at Manshiyet Ezzat in the Delta.


The Narmer palette - the reverse side


-Dynasties I and II: The Unification of Egypt
-Main Index and Search Page


Offsite links(Opening in a new window)
These are just suggestions for further reading. I do not assume any responsibility for the content or availability of these sites.
The Narmer Serekh SignThe Narmer Serekh Sign
The Alpha and the OmegaThe Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Four by Jim A. Cornwell
Feedback: Please report broken links, mistakes - factual or otherwise, etc. to me. Thanks.


© 2000
Latest update: February 2003