History Origins: Narmer Palette


Figure 1.-- The first artifacts that we might call history come from Egypt (4th millenium BC). It is known as the Narmer Palette (also called the Great Hierakonpolis Palette ). Archeologists date it at the 32nd-31st century BC. It has some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions yet found. Of course we have no idea who created the Narmer Palette. It must have been commissioned by the Pharoah Narmer himself or perhaps a descendent. Presumably court advisors would have designed it. Narmer was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the Early Dynastic Period (about 32nd century BC). There is not only historical information here, but also useful information about clothing. Source: Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

The first artifacts that we might call history come from Egypt (4th millenium BC). It is known as the Narmer Palette (also called the Great Hierakonpolis Palette or the Palette of Narmer). Archeologists date it at the 32nd-31st century BC. It has some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions yet found. Of course we have no idea who created the Narmer Palette. It must have been commissioned by the Pharoah Narmer himself or perhaps a descendent. Presumably court advisors would have designed it. Narmer was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the Early Dynastic Period (about 32nd century BC). There is not only historical information here, but also useful information about clothing.

Old Kingdom

Egyptian history generally begins with the foundation of Dynasty I and the Old Kingdom, the unification of the Lower and Upper Kingdoms by Menes/Narmer about 3,500 BC. Also attributed to Menes is the foundation of Memphis and the introduction of the basin system of irrigation. Some time around the end of the Dynasty II, about 3,000 BC, the first mastaba, above the ground tombs, appear in Egypt. Some art at the time was heavily influenced by Mesopotamia with which there were extensive commercial relations. The greates era of the Old Kingdom was achieved during the reign of Zoser who founded the Thir Dynasty beginning about 2980 BC. Zoser's Dynasty III was the first Memphite Dynasty because his capital was located at Memphis. Zoser extended Egyptian control into the Suani and ptomoted art and science. His chief advisor, Imhotep, probably designed the Step Pyramid--the first important stone structure in history. This technological achievement culminated in Dynasty IV with the Great Pyramids at Giza. Zoser's successor was Snefru, Egypt's first important warrior king. He made Egypt the most prosperous center of the ancient world and conducted successful military expeditions against the Syrians to the north east and the Nubians to the south. Egyptian government by the time of Snefru had evolved into a theocracy in which pharoah was both absolute ruler and god. This centralized authority made possible the maintenace of the irrigation system as well as clossal building projects like the pyramids. The three Great Pyramids at Giza were built by the pharaohs following Snefru, Khufu, Khafre, and Menkure over a span of 150 years. Besides these impressive achievements in architecture, comparable achievements were also made in astronomy, industrial arts and scences, mathematics, navigation, painting, and sculpture. Our modern solar calendar of 365 days divuded into 12 months was developed during this period. Inperfections however are thecause of much confusion concerning Egytian chronology. Other achievenents were the sun dial, the water cloick, and mathematical fornula (suchb as computing the area of a circle). There were also graet advances in medicine, including a sophisticated undersyanding of physiology, surgery, and the circulatory. The Old Kingdom survived for centuries after Dynasty IV, but few important advances were made in learning and culture. The Egyptians around 2,625 BC during Dynasty V initiated the practice of inscribing religious texts on the inner walls of tombs, thus preserving some of their earliest writing. During Dynasty VI the authority of the Pharaoh Pepi was challenged by the nobility leading to an era of feudal strife. The internal bickering led to growing instability and a collapse of central authority. Partially as a result, little is known about the Dynasties VII and VIII.

Pharoah Narmer

Narmer is one of earliest pharoahs for which historical data is believed available, althoughj some Egyptologists believe that the information is mostly mythological. A particularly important piece of evidence is the Narmer Palette. He is believed to date to the Early Dynastic Period (about the 32nd century BC). Most Egyptologuists believe that he is the successor to the Protodynastic pharaohs Scorpion (or Selk) and/or Ka. Many Egytologists believe that he is pharoah who unified Upper (northern) and Lower (southern) Egypt and thus is the founder of the First Dynasty of unified Egypt. Some Egyptolists believe that Narmer was another name for the Protodynastic pharaoh Menes (Merinar) which reverses the two hieroglyphs which spell 'Narmer'). Menes is also commonly identified as the pharoah which unified Egypt and thus the founder of the First Dynasty.

Narmer Palette

The first artifacts that we might call history come from Egypt (4th millenium BC). It is known as the Narmer Palette (also called the Great Hierakonpolis Palette ). Archeologists date it at the 32nd-31st century BC. It has some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions yet found. Of course we have no idea who created the Narmer Palette. It must have been commissioned by the Pharoah Narmer himself or perhaps a descendent. Presumably court advisors would have designed it. Narmer was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the Early Dynastic Period (about 32nd century BC). There is not only historical information here, but also useful information about clothing. It widely believed to commemorate the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt--a momentous historical chievement. The Palette in in almost perfect condition. It was found by British archeologists James E. Quibell and Frederick W. Green, in what they referred to as the Main Deposit in the Temple of Horus at Hierakonpolis during the 189798 dig season. This was where the Narmer Macehead and the Scorpion Macehead were also found. Unfiortunately precise place and circumstances of these finds were not well recorded by the two archeologists. Archheology as a science was still in the developmental stage. These artifacts are believed to be royal donations made to the temple. The city of Hierakonpolis was the ancient capital of Upper Egypt during the pre-dynastic period

Palettes

Palettes were commonly used by ancient Egyptians to grind cosmetics which were extensivdely used by Egyptians, both men and women. The Narmer palette was, however, much larger and heavier than a basic palatte. And of course it uis elaborately decorated to hasve been intended for mundane peronal use. Archeologistys thus beklieve tht it was used for religious ritual or aS A votive object that was donated to a temple. One possibility is that it was used to grind the cosmetics used to decorate the statues of the gods in a temple. Tomb paintings show the gods in coloful depictiions and there is every reason to belive that statues/idiols were similasrly adorned. There is no way of knowing this, but it or a compsrable usage seems likely.

Basic Description

the Narmer Palatte is a 63-centimetre (over 2 feet) tall. It is a shield-shaped, ceremonial palette, elaborately carved from a single piece of flat, soft dark gray-green siltstone and not slate which is sometimes mentyioned. There are two sides. On the side here, Pharoah Narmer dominates. He is shown wearing the the bulbed White crown of Upper Egypt. The other side shows Narmer wearing the level Red Crown of Lower Egypt. This is why the Plette is commonly see as commemorating the unification of Egypt. It thus provides one of the earliest depictions of an Egyptian pharoah governing a united Egypt. The Palette also shows many of the classic conventions which dominated Egyptian art which thus appear to be formalized by the time the Palette's was created. The fact that Egyptian art was essentially static for more than three millenia is astonushing and unparalleled in art history. The side here is divided into three sections.

Top Section

The format from the other side was reported on the side here (figure 1). At the top are two human-faced bovine heads. This is believed to represent the patron cattle goddess Bat. They flank the serekhs. And uncommon for Egyptian art they are displayed in a full frontal aspect, although Bat and Hathor are sometimes displayed this way. Bulls were a common symbol for strength and vigor, including sexual prowess, throughout the ancient world. This is presumably why they adorn the top of the palette.

Center Section

The center section on this side of the palette is dominated by Pharoah Narmer. Pharoah Narmer dominates.

Depiction of Narmer

Pharoag Narmer is shown wearing the the white bulbed White crown of Upper Egypt. The other side shows Narmer wearing the level Red Crown of Lower Egypt. This is why the Plette is commonly see as commemorating the unification of Egypt. And a leading Egyptologist refers to the Narmer Palette as "the first historical document in the world". [Brier, p. 202.] It thus provides one of the earliest depictions of an Egyptian pharoah governing a united Egypt. A leading Egyptologist referrs to the Narmer Palette as "the first historical document in the world". [Brier, p. 202.] Narmer brandashes a mace over the head of a efeted enenmy. Presumably he is about to kill him.

Servant

Behind the Pharoah is a servant. Notice that he wearinf sonme kind of necklace and amaulet. He is bearing the Pharaoh's sandals. This provides some information about clothing in ancient Egypt, especially the footwear. One might wonder why Narmer is not wearing the sandals. Here all we can think of is that at this early stage, footwear had not yetr been invented that could be worn duruing strnous activity like making war. Perhaps readers can explain this anomally. We anot sure what is on his right hand. A rosette symbol can be seen over the servant.

Captive

There is a captive undoubtedly taken in battle kneeling submissivley in front of the Pharoah. The posture of the Pharoah suggests that he is about to strike the captive with his mace. He may be an individual of considerable importance. Note the symbols to the right of his head. Egyptologists believe this is his name or the name of the place is from.

Flowering papyras

To the right of the pharoah and above the captive ia group of images. We see flowering papyras bloosoms. Payras was a symbol representing Lower Egypt. Papras proliferatre in pools along the Nile and in marshy delta. This could mean the battle took place in Upper Egypt or perhaps a marshy area. Another theory is each bloosom repesented 1,000enemies killed or captured. Perching on the papyras flowers is a falcon which represents the god Horus. Horius holds a rope-like device in his tallons. It seems to be attached to the nose of an unidentified man's head who also emerges from the papyrus. We are not sure what this means. Some Egyptologists speculte tht the god is drawing life from man's the head.

Bottom Section

A small third section is under the Pharoah's feet. Two naked men are depicted there. They are bearded and resemble the larger figure that the Pharoah is about to clot. They may be dead enemy soldiers are given the posture depicted, enemies fleeung the Pharoah. There is a hieroglyphic sign by the head of each man. One is a walled town, the other is a knot. These are belived to be the names of cities that the Pharoah has conquered.

Sources

Brier, Bob. Daily Life of the Ancient Egyptians (A. Hoyt Hobbs 1999).








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Created: 8:36 PM 7/14/2011
Last updated: 8:36 PM 7/14/2011