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Narmer Pallette

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Most of the marshlands in Egypt are located in the Nile Delta, in Lower-Egypt and although it might go too far to interpret this sign as a symbol for the whole of Lower-Egypt, it does point to at least a part of it.

An alternative interpretation for this symbol that has sometimes been forwarded, would be that each papyrus plant represents the number 1.000 and that the falcon-king subdued 6.000 enemies. The papyrus plant was indeed used in later hieroglyphic writing to denote the number 1.000, but it was drawn in a somewhat different manner than the papyrus plants on the palette. Furthermore, it is not so certain that the signs used at the very beginning of hieroglyphic writing have the same phonetic or even ideographic meaning. The alternative interpretation seems a bit too far-fetched.

Back - Bottom scene

Underneath the king's feet, at the bottom of the palette's back, lie two overthrown, naked enemies. One of their arms is raised up, the other is drawn behind their backs. Their legs are sprawling. In fact, their entire posture indicates that they are fallen enemies.

To the left of each victim, a hieroglyphic sign is drawn, the left-most representing a wall and the other some sort of knot. Both signs are usually interpreted as names of places that have been overthrown by Narmer. Their reading is unknown so even if they do denote names of places, we do not know which places they are. In light of the symbolic representation of a marshland in the main scene of the palette, it is not unlikely that these two places were located in the Nile Delta.

Front - Top scene

In the top scene of the palette's front, the second figure from the left, Narmer, is represented wearing the Red Crown that is usually associated with Lower Egypt. He holds a mace in his left hand, while his right arm is bent over his chest, holding some kind of flail. The two signs in from of him represent his name, but they are not written in the so-called serekh.

He is again followed by an apparently bald figure that holds his sandals in his left hand and some kind of basket in his right.

A rectangle above this sandal-bearer's head contains a sign of uncertain meaning.

The king is preceded by a long-haired person. The signs accompanying this figure could be read as Tshet if they already had the value they would have in later hieroglyphic writing. The meaning of these signs is unknown.



A person similarly designed and with the same hieroglyphs, can also be found on the ceremonial mace-heads of both Narmer and 'Scorpion'. His role is normally interpreted as that of a 'shaman'. It must be noted, however, that if this Tshet had some kind of priestly function, his representation as a long-haired instead of a bald man, is atypical for later representations of priests.

Before the Tshet figure, four persons are holding a standard. The left-most standard represents some kind of animal skin, the second a dog and the next two a falcon. These standards might be the emblems of the royal house of Narmer, or of the regions that already belonged to his kingdom.

The object of this procession is made clear on the right hand side of the scene: 10 decapitated corpses are shown lying on the ground, their heads thrown between their legs. Above the victims, a ship with a harpoon and a falcon in it, are drawn. These signs are often interpreted as the name of the conquered region. If this name has remained the same throughout the history of Ancient Egypt, the region conquered by Narmer was the Mareotis region, the 7th Lower-Egyptian province.

The two signs in front of the probable name of the region, the wing of a door and a sparrow are thought to mean 'create' or 'found'. The entire group could thus be interpreted that on the occasion of the conquest of the Mareotis region, Narmer founded a new province, whiche name was written by the ship, the harpoon and the falcon.

Front - Central scene

The central scene on the palette's front represents two men tying together the stretched necks of two fabulous animals. Between the animal's necks, a circular area is a bit deeper than the palette's surface.

This lower circular area indicates the place where a cosmetic was put if this were not a ceremonial palette.

The tying together of the necks of the two animals has often been interpreted as a symbol for the tying together of Upper and Lower Egypt. Nothing, however, indicates that the animals are to be seen as the symbols of Upper or Lower Egypt. This is a unique image and no later parallels are known. It is not impossible that they have just been used to create a circular area in the centre of the palette.

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From: The Ancient Egypt Site

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