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Narmer Pallette

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Front - Bottom scene

The scene at the bottom of the palette's front face continues the imagery of conquest and victory. A bull, almost certainly a symbol of the king's vigour and strength, tramples a fallen foe and attacks the walls of a city or fortress with its horns.

The name of the city or fortress attacked by the bull is written within the walls, but its reading is unknown. In view of the other regions represented on the palette, it is not unlikely that they indicate a city located in the Nile Delta.


The overall military symbolism on the palette is clear. Using different types of imagery, the king is shown again and again as victorious over his enemies. He is shown striking down a kneeling enemy, whilst stepping on the bodies of some other foes on the palette's back. On the front of the palette, he is represented as a human overlooking the decapitated corpses of his foes or as a bull vigorously trampling an enemy and breaking down the walls of a city or a fortress.

The fact that the king is represented on one side wearing the crown of Upper Egypt, the region from whence he came, and on the other side the crown of Lower Egypt is very often seen as proof that the Upper-Egyptian Narmer was the one who successfully conquered Lower Egypt. Several other interpretations are, however, also possible:

  • That Narmer is seen wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt but it does not indicate that he was the one who conquered that region.



When he came to power, he may already have ruled over the whole of Egypt. The scenes depicted on his palette could represent the striking down of some uprising against his rule.

  • The association of the Red Crown with Lower Egypt cannot be doubted for later periods of the Ancient Egyptian history, but this association may not have been made during or before the Early Dynastic Period. It is not impossible that in Narmer's day and age the Red Crown was associated with only a part of Lower Egypt, or even with another part of Upper Egypt. That Narmer is represented wearing the Red Crown would, in this case, not prove that he conquered or ruled the whole of Lower Egypt.

Despite the doubt concerning the meaning of the representation of the Red Crown, it is still clear that the decoration on the palette refers to a military campaign waged by Narmer against some marshlands located in Lower Egypt. Three names of cities or fortresses that were overthrown during this campaign are mentioned and even though we do not know which places these names refer to, they were part of the conquered marshlands. The fact that their names and the name of a fallen enemy are mentioned on the palette points to the great importance Narmer attached to this conquest.

The palette also refers to the foundation of a region indicated by the signs ship-harpoon-falcon, a group of signs that would be used to denote the 7th Lower Egyptian province located in the eastern Nile Delta. For all intent, it was Narmer's goal to add this region to his kingdom.

Whether or not the battle commemorated on the palette was the final battle after which Upper and Lower Egypt were united under one rule, is not clear. That this battle was at least part of the effort to conquer Lower Egypt, whether it was to actually conquer the region or to overthrow a rebellion, cannot be doubted.

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From: The Ancient Egypt Site

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