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The Narmer Palette

    ... is one of the most significant artifacts of ancient Egypt and yet, one of the first written documents. Despite numerous publications and fact that the palette is one of most famous Egyptian relics there is number of hypotheses concerning interpretation of individual scenes and figures. Among those most fantastic is the one suggesting that the palette in its shape resembles Synai peninsula and commemorates colonization of this area. No comment.
The relic was discovered during excavation works in 1898 at Hierakonpolis and now is a property of Egyptian Museum of Kairo. The palette had been made of greywacke (other names: limestone, grey sandstone, slate). Its dimensions are 63 x 42 cm. This is a votive palette for crushing cosmetic powder so that its central (utilizable) element is shallow depression surrounded by long necks of two serpopards. In contradiction to other palettes with regard to significance of presentations it is the opposite side which used to be regarded as obverse. Shield-like shape of the palette is endowed on both sides with heads of the goddess Hathor or Bat. Between them, in the middle, there is Horus name of Narmer, inscribed in serekh.
The principal scene on obverse side shows a king in the white crown of Upper Egipt, holding in upraised right hand a mace while in left one, put on head of an enemy, has an object being probably a cylinder seal. Narmer is dressed up with a kind of tunic, fastened over his left shoulder and with the bull’s tail hanging from back of belt. Also from the belt are hanging down four fringes resembling also bundles of reed stalks endowed by their roots with images of the same goddess – Hathor or Bat. A prisoner is wearing only belt around hip, made probably of leaves. He is bearded and long haired. Right to his head is a rectangular hieroglyph filled in with wavy lines and harpoon laid above. According to one assumption the prisoner is a chieftain of harpooners of north-western Delta (P. E. Newberry). Some scholars interpret this hieroglyph as describing a chieftain of Fayum and accordingly read it ws (the one of a lake).
Above the figure of the prisoner smitten by Narmer there is an object with protruding head of bearded and long haired man, held symbolically by a falcon standing on papyrus stalks which grow out of the bottom. Six stalks would thus symbolize 6000 imprisoned foes. This hypothesis does not seem to be very convicting and rather the plants symbolize captured land, they may have been stalks of papyrus representing the Delta – Tamehu. Next to Narmer, behind his back, there is figure of official placed on its own base. This high official with a pectoral hung over his neck, holds a jar in his right hand and sandals in left one. Next to his head there is hieroglyphic inscription composed of seven-petalled rosette and a kind of a jar turned upside down. This group of hieroglyphs is read hem – king’s servant, or sandal-bearer of the ruler. The very rosette is by some scholars interpreted as title of king of the Upper Egypt.
Lower register presents two dead bearded men. Next to each of them there is a hieroglyph representing nationality, title and name. Possibly it refers to Memphis or some other unidentified, captured city of the Delta.  One of the hypotheses states that a sign of double stalk means number 2000 and refers to one of Asiatic cities. Thus we would have to do with first evidence of Egyptian expansion in south-western Asia. In W. Kaiser opinion this representation refers to captured cities of Delta: Memphis and Sais

 

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, being also the actual palette, is divided into three parts. In the upper one we can see a ruler in red crown of the North, dressed up like in previous one scene. In his left hand he holds mace, in right one, risen up to his chest, has a crook nekhakha. Behind him there is sandal-bearer and the same hieroglyphic inscription, although the rosette is now composed of six petals. Above the dignitary’s figure there is rectangle with hieroglyph inscribed into it and read as deb
It is assumed that it depicts a place of descent of the king. The rectangle might have symbolized a raft or a pool for ritual feet washing. In front of the ruler there is his name without serekh. Next one can see a figure striding in a huge wig and bearing tools of scribe. Next to his head there is a group of hieroglyphs, interpreted by some scholars as Txt, expression used to depict official or scribe. In front of him stride four standard-bearers, half as high as he is. The standards are endowed with falcons, dogs and placenta. These standards represent Koptos, Asyut and Leontopolis. On the right side of this register there lay ten enemies with hands tied up and cut off heads which are put between their legs. Most of the heads seems to have some caps resembling in outlines the red crown. Above the dead figures there is a ship. On its board, apart from cabin, there is a structure resembling either bull’s head or a jar with two handles (props). On the left side of ship there are two signs interpreted as “great door”. Above the boat is falcon sitting on harpoon.
 The central panel, being the actual, utilized part of palette, shows two serpopards with their necks entwined and restrained by two men. The scene is hardly to interpret, it possibly symbolizes unification of the land and the bearded men represent enemies of this political act.
 The lower register shows a bull treading upon bare, bearded enemy and breaching a fortress the name of which is presumably depicted by a hieroglyph placed in the middle.

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