The Narmer Palette

The Narmer Palette depicts King Narmer as the king who unified Upper and Lower Egypt.

The following information about the Narmer Palette was taken from Wikipedia:

The Narmer Palette, also known as the Great Hierakonpolis Palette or the Palette of Narmer, is a significant Egyptian archeological find, dating from about the 31st century BC. It contains some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions ever found. The tablet is thought by some to depict the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the king Narmer. On one side, the king is depicted with the bulbed White Crown of Upper (southern) Egypt, and the other side depicts the king wearing the level Red Crown of Lower (northern) Egypt.

Along with the Scorpion Macehead and the Narmer Maceheads, also found together in the Main Deposit at Nekhen, the Narmer Palette provides one of the earliest known depictions of an Egyptian king. The Palette shows many of the classic conventions of Ancient Egyptian art, which must already have been formalized by the time of the Palette’s creation. The Egyptologist Bob Brier has referred to the Narmer Palette as “the first historical document in the world”.

The Palette, which has survived five millennia in almost perfect condition, was discovered by British archeologists James E. Quibell and Frederick W. Green, in what they called the Main Deposit in the Temple of Horus at Nekhen, during the dig season of 1897-98. Also found at this dig were the Narmer Macehead and the Scorpion Macehead. The exact place and circumstances of these finds were not recorded very clearly by Quibell and Green.

In fact, Green’s report placed the Palette in a different layer one or two yards away from the deposit, which is considered to be more accurate on the basis of the original excavation notes. It has been suggested that these objects were royal donations made to the temple.

Nekhen, or Hierakonpolis, was one of four power centers in Upper Egypt that preceded the consolidation of Upper Egypt at the end of the Naqada III period. Hierakonpolis’s religious importance continued long after its political role had declined. Palettes were typically used for grinding cosmetics, but this palette is too large and heavy (and elaborate) to have been created for personal use and was probably a ritual or votive object, specifically made for donation to, or use in, a temple. One theory is that it was used to grind cosmetics to adorn the statues of the gods.

The Narmer Palette is part of the permanent collection of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It is one of the initial exhibits which visitors have been able to see when entering the museum.

Claude F. Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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