Egypt is well-known for producing some of the world’s most beautiful artifacts, but one, in particular, is considered to be more than just an artifact, but an actual piece of history. The Narmer Palette is a ceremonial engraving depicting Narmer (Menes), the first dynasty’s king, defeating his enemies and uniting Upper and Lower Egypt into one kingdom.
It is also an excellent example of primitive artistic design from the 31st century BC. The Narmer palette serves as a reminder of a time when ancient civilizations evolved into kingdoms and empires and sought to build structures that would withstand the test of time and achieve immortality.
Facts about the Narmer Palette
Between 3200 and 3000 BC, the Narmer Palette was carved on both sides from a single piece of smooth grayish-green siltstone. The palette depicts the king’s Narmer victory in battle and his unification of Egypt after receiving approval from the ancient Egyptian holy gods.
The palette is 63.5 cm (2.2 ft) tall and contains ambiguous scenes of King Menes that were difficult to explain and interpret for a long time. The artwork’s main purpose is to serve as a ritual object dedicated to the gods in order to express gratitude for this great unification. In ancient Egypt, the palette was used on a daily basis for grinding and mixing minerals for cosmetics such as dark eyeliner to reduce glare and during certain religious rituals.
Narmer Palette Information
British archaeologists discovered the Narmer Palette at the temple of Horus in Nekhen in 1897 CE. It housed many scenes regarded as highly symbolic and evidence of some of history’s oldest events. Narmer is depicted on the palette’s reverse wearing the red wicker war crown of upper Egypt, indicating that lower Egypt has fallen under his control.
The palette’s largest engravings depict two men intertwining the serpentine necks of unknown beasts known as serpopards; this section of the palette is highly mysterious. The king is depicted at the bottom of the palette as a bull breaking through the city walls with his horns and trampling his enemies beneath his hooves.
There is also a priest dressed in leopard skin who follows four divine standards. On the other side of the palette, the recto side is one complete cohesive of Narmer with his war gathering about to strike down an enemy captured by the hair, and beneath his two feet are two men either dead or attempting to escape his wrath, plus behind the king, there is a bald servant holding his sandals while in front of him is the sky god Horus watching and blessing King Narmer’s victory by bringing more and more enemy prisoners.
Both sides of the palette are decorated at the very top with animal heads such as cows and bulls, which are associated with Hathor, the goddess of celebration and joy, who is depicted as a cow or a woman with cow’s ears, and the bull, which is a symbol of the king’s strength, vigor, and vitality.
Symbolism in the Narmer Palette
The Narmer palette’s symbolism is extremely high, with the use of various types of imagery, which explains why it has been called the world’s first historical document. The majority of the images show Narmer’s military intelligence and absolute power.
The palette was able to confirm that Narmer was the true founder of united Egypt because he is depicted wearing the white and red crowns on opposite sides, indicating geographical significance. It also depicts the level of unrest and chaos that existed throughout Egypt’s divided regions prior to Narmer’s unification. Djoser, his son, carried on his father’s legacy by building the Saqqara step pyramid.
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The Narmer palette is housed in the magical Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where anyone can explore its incredible beauty and witness all of the historical artifacts in the magical cities of Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, and Aswan as part of our Egypt private tours.