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Narmer Palette

Narmer Palette

Narmer Palette

The Narmer Palette, also known as the Great Hierakonpolis Palette is a significant Egyptian archaeological find, dating from about the 31st century BC. It contains some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions ever found.

The tablet is thought by some to depict the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under king Narmer. It provides one of the earliest known depictions of an Egyptian king. The Palette shows many of the ancient conventions of Ancient Egyptian art, which means that this art form must already have been formalised by the time of the Palette’s creation. A leading Egyptologist has referred to the 5,000-year-old Narmer Palette as:

“the first historical document in the world.”

Narmer Palette serpopard side

The side of the Narmer Palette with the two serpopards

This historical record was probably a ritual or votive object, made explicitly for donation to and used in a temple. The Palette, which has survived five millennia in remarkably good condition, was discovered by British archaeologists during 1897–98.

Narmer Palette smiting side

The Palette has raised considerable debate, with two camps of view.  One view is that the Palette is a record of actual events and another view that it is an object designed to establish the mythology of united rule over Upper and Lower Egypt by the king.

It is believed that the iconography has more to do with establishing the king as a visual metaphor of the conquering hunter delivering a mortal blow to his enemies. Some experts believe:

“the chief purpose of the piece ………. is to assert that the king dominates the ordered world in the name of the gods and has defeated internal, and especially external, forces of disorder”.

 Narmer Palette or Great Hierakonpolis Palette

  • Title:                         Narmer Palette or Great Hierakonpolis Palette
  • Year:                         31st century BC (circa)
  • Medium:                  siltstone
  • Discovered:            1897–98
  • Dimensions:            c. 64 cm x 42 cm
  • Museum:                 Egyptian Museum, Cairo


“For the benefit of the flowers, we water the thorns, too.” Egyptian Proverbs


Photo Credits: 1) By Unknown, perhaps more than one [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 2) See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons