Art of the Ancient World, C. 5000 B.c.e.–400 C.E.

Ancient Egyptian Art

What is the Narmer Palette?

The Narmer Palette (c. 2950–2775 B.C.E.) is one of the most important examples of Egyptian art. The shield-like palette was made from a material called greenschist, and depicts a king identified as Narmer, but is possibly the ruler Menes, who was celebrated for uniting the lands of Egypt under his rule. The story is told through a combination of hieroglyphic writing and imagery. On one side of the palette, Narmer is the largest figure depicted, an example of Egyptian art’s use of the hieratic scale; the pharaoh’s large size indicates his importance. His hand is raised above his head, about to strike an enemy with a club. The opposite side features the headless bodies of Narmer’s enemies, watched over by Horus, the falcon god of the sky. In a lower register, the cat-like animals have their necks intertwined. All in all, the imagery of the palette serves to proclaim the strength of Narmer, and represents the unification of the lands of Egypt.


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