Palette of King Narmer

Egyptian, late predynastic, c. 3100-3000 BC
Slate, c. 25" tall

Many scholars believe Narmer to be another name for Menes, a ruler of the First Dynasty.

This object depicts the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt into the "Kingdom of the Two Lands" under the divine king. This object is a ceremonial palette used in the ritual of mixing and applying the King's eye makeup. The palette is arranged in three easily read registers on the back and four on the front.

Back of Palette

Palette of Narmer (Back)

Narmer wears the white crown of Lower Egypt and is sacrificing an enemy. Two other enemies lie dead in the lowest register.

Narmer's divine authority is shown by:

  • two images of Hathor, the cow goddess, benevolently looking down on the scene, showing the status of Narmer as an equal (Narmer's name, in early hieroglyphics is between the two images of Hathor. The marks inside the curve of the horn in the image of Hathor on the left are Arabic language markings placed there by museum officials to catalog their inventory.)
  • his central placement in this image
  • his size relative to other figures in this image
  • his mace
  • his crown
  • the servant behind him holding his sandals
  • Horus, the hawk god, presenting Narmer with a representation of Lower Egypt.

Front of Palette

Palette of Narmer (Front)

Reading from top to bottom, the upper scene from the back is repeated. The next register shows the record of a decisive battle with Narmer wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt and directing the soldiers marching in front of him. To the right are the neatly arranged, beheaded bodies of his defeated enemies. Again, he is by far the largest figure in the scene. The largest register depicts two of Narmer's servants controlling two lionesses with leashes (their stylized, intertwined necks create the space in which the eye makeup was mixed). The implication is that Narmer controls the servants who, in turn, control the cats—another declaration of authority. Narmer appears in the bottom scene in the guise of a bull (Egyptian gods could also change their shape) and crushes a rebellious town.