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What’s The Narmer Palette And What Does It Mean? - An Easy Guide

Narmer Palette Guide

Let’s start with the basics, what’s a palette?

An Ancient Egyptian palette was a flat, stone object used for grinding up and mixing powders to apply makeup. Most palettes found by archaeologists are smooth on one side (for mixing the makeup) and beautifully decorated on the other. But others are decorated on both sides and are only for ceremonial use.


Okay, so what’s this about a Narmer Palette?

The Narmer Palette was a palette found by archaeologists Quibell and Green at the city of Nekhen around 1897. This special palette was made of one large piece of siltstone and had decorations on both sides. Historians think the palette’s decorations show a bloke called Narmer ruling over Egypt as the first ever Egyptian king. The palette also shows how awesome Narmer was as a king (or at least that’s what Narmer wanted us to think!).


What does the Narmer Palette look like?

It looks like this…


The Narmer Palette
Here's the Narmer Palette! Can you spot what Narmer's trying to tell us?

Wow! Wait, what do all those pictures mean?

I’m glad you asked! Let’s have a look at the front of the palette first.

The Narmer Palette front side
The front side of the Narmer Palette
Bull Heads:

At the top of the palette you’ve got two odd looking cow heads. These cows are probably King Narmer in bull form. This was probably to show people how big and strong he was. Personally, I’d have gone for something cool like a lion or a crocodile, but there’s no accounting for taste!


Spotting Narmer:

Underneath this we can see a line of people that look like they’re walking along. Spot the tallest guy in the line with the funny hat on? That’s Narmer. We know this because he’s much bigger (and so much more important) than the others. Plus, that funny hat is his crown. This is the red crown. It shows that he rules over Lower Egypt. Keep this in your brain, because it’s important for this next bit…


Dead Enemies:

To the right of this are two rows of bodies lying flat. If you look closely you’ll see these bodies are tied up and have had their heads chopped off (ouch!) which are lying between their legs. These are the dead bodies of Narmer’s enemies. They’re probably the people that he had to fight to conquer Lower Egypt and wear that special red crown he’s got on his head.

More Bulls:

At the very bottom of this side of the palette you can spot Narmer as a bull again. This time he’s breaking through the city walls and trampling on his enemies. Another great way to tell everyone how he conquered Lower Egypt because he’s such a big strong dude (honest!).


What about the other side of the palette?

The Narmer Palette reverse
The reverse side of the Narmer Palette
Narmer Doing Some Smiting:

Here, we see Narmer (he’s the tall dude right in the middle) holding a big club in his hand about to donk someone on the head with it. This is Narmer battling his enemies to conquer Lower Egypt. You’ll notice his crown is a bit different this time. This is the white crown of Upper Egypt (where he was already ruler).


In fact, Narmer was so good at defeating people that even the Egyptian god Horus was impressed! Horus is shown as a falcon on the top right of the palette and he’s bringing Narmer more enemies to strike!


Crushing Enemies:

And those dead bodies at the bottom of the palette? Narmer's literally standing on them and crushing them with his big feet. One thing’s for sure, Narmer was obsessed with showing people how good he was at destroying his enemies (anyone else think he was trying a little too hard?).


Don't Forget The Servants:

Oh and that little guy on the left behind Narmer? That’s the royal sandal holder. Because a big powerful ruler needs someone to hold his shoes while he does some royal smiting!


So, what do we learn from Narmer’s Palette (other than the fact he was obsessed with fighting people!)?

The most important thing we can learn from this is that Narmer, ruler of Upper Egypt, probably used military force to conquer Lower Egypt. This means he was probably the first king to unify the two kingdoms of Egypt into one and rule over them both. Though, by the looks of things, he probably had to spend a lot of time battling with the people of Lower Egypt to keep the peace.


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