The Palette of King Narmer

A picture of the palette may be found at:
You may want to review it first before reading this write-up as it refers to it constantly.

The Ancient Egyptians that everybody had a ka and a ba, the ka being the spiritual person and the ba being the body. When the ba died, the ka stayed in the body until it was destroyed. Then the ka would roam confused until it found a place to stay. That's why artist would make renderings of the dead so that, just in case the body was destroyed, the ka would have some place to go.
Now, Egyptians thought of art very differently then most modern artists. Art, whether it be a drawing, sculpture, etc. all was not just a depiction of something. It had some power, such as the palette's ability to hold someone's ka. In fact, when creating a sculpture of a "pharaoh" (which they believed to be divine beings) the artists would paint the eyes last because they believed the sculpture could see, and then added eye shadow to reduce glare, and make them more comfortable.
Now we know that the palette of king Narmer was made by a man because it was a sculpture and all of these positions were held by men. Not that high positions were not held by women. Many women were rich artists: weavers, some painting, etc. but all sculptors were men.
Ancient Egyptian artist were highly trained and highly paid, and only the rich could be artists. They drew humans in a standard form to make sure every body knew they were human. They were drawn in a way that every part looked the most human-like for example, feet and legs were drawn in a profile to one side or another because if it was facing forward then you wouldn't be able to tell it was a foot. The torso and shoulders and everything were drawn facing forward towards the viewer for the same reason. Then head was drawn in a profile to with the eyes facing forward like the torso (which no human can really do).

The Palette:
This was designed to analyze and explain the palette. Let's begin analyzing the palette's obverse side (obverse=front reverse=back). This side has three sections divided. The reverse side has four sections. Each section is divided by a thick line representing the ground. The sections are not necessarily in any chronological order and each one may have more than one perspective. All these are represented in the Palette of King Narmer. We'll start on the top on the obverse side. In the middle there is a weird fish shape thing and a needle thing below it making a "T" shape. This spells out "NAR-MER". And on both sides there are columns representing his palace. This is how we know the palette was for Narmer. There are two cow heads on either side of his name. There a four cow heads on the whole palette (two on the other side. The top sections of the obverse and reverse side are identical). Each head represents Hathor the wife of Horus. But the cow has horns like a bull! How could it be a female? Well, she was the goddess of the moon and horns represent the crescent moon. Horus is the defender of the gods because the gods were supposedly in the heavens. The stars used to be a place that man could worship and never go to, so the gods must be there. Horus had a mother and father (Isis and Osiris) and an uncle (Set). Set killed Osiris out of jealousy and Horus took revenge on Set. He is the Hawk god associated with the sun because birds were sacred as cats were because they could defy gravity and become closer to the gods as man could not. Horus is supposed to be like opposites with his wife (Sun and Moon).
Now lets go to the second section. The main figure in this section is Narmer. In every panel the king is much larger than everyone else. He is wearing the crown of upper Egypt and carrying a war club. Behind him is his high priest who we know is a priest because of the way he wears his loin clothes with one hanging down in between his legs. He is carrying ointments to anoint the sacred king. You may notice that he has his own plane of ground to stand on but he is also much smaller than the king. The king is also grabbing someone by the head. It is speculated but not confirmed that this is the king if lower Egypt. He has been stripped down to his loin cloth as a sign of shame. Some evidence to prove that this was the king of lower Egypt is that we see a man-headed hieroglyph above him with papyrus plants coming out of his back. Papyrus was the plant of lower Egypt and the lotus blossom was that of upper Egypt (not that they grew there, but it's just like the US has states and state flowers). Horus (the Hawk god) is above the hieroglyph grasping the papyrus in his talon. In his other talon he is holding a hook into the man's nose as another sign of shame towards lower Egypt. This says that Horus (protector of the gods) was on Narmer's side and helped him defeat lower Egypt. Although, Narmer takes all the credit for defeating them. Kings always took credit for any military or technological advances that happened during their rule because supposedly it was them who correctly channeled their mat and made it possible for these advances to happen. You'll notice that none of Narmer's troops were shown with him. All that the third section of the obverse side shows is some lower Egyptian soldiers cowering in fear of Narmer. This is one of the more realistic portrayals of humans in this palette.
Now let's go to the reverse side. remember that the first (top) section is identical to the obverse side so we can skip that. The section shows a smaller (but still in proportion to the obverse side) version of Narmer with his priest behind him, still carrying those ointments and oils. This time he does not have his own plane of ground. Horus is still to the upper-right side of him but is abbreviated by only showing the head of a hawk. To the right of him are four people carrying flags. These are most-likely the flags of the different city states displaying the unification of Egypt. To the right of them are several bodies of enemy troops lying dead in rows. Most of the palette up until now has been in a profile view but you wouldn't be able to see the bodies layed out if they were in a profile view so the bodies are from a bird's-eye view. You can see that their heads have been chopped off and laid neatly in-between their legs.
In the next section down, you can see two great lionesses with elongated necks intertwining. In between their necks, a small circle is formed (Lions represent royalty as they are on the top of the food chain as the rich are in the economic chain). This is the utilitarian part of their art. This circle is pressed down and can be used as a cosmetic holder or make-up mixer. From the marks on the palette of king Narmer, it has not been used for such a purpose and may not have been designed for it because the area is so small. If they were really going to use it, they probably would have made it a lot larger as most other ones are. Their are two priests on either side of the lions. We know they are priest because of the loin cloth again. Some argue that this is two king Narmers which is entirely possible because Narmer was a priest himself. All kings are essentially "the highest priest". If this is true then he is most likely taming both the east and west. The whole palette was mostly about him unifying everything.
Now on the last section, You see a bull which is one of Narmer's familiar gods. Every pharaoh claims to have descended from the line of a god, a specific god. And the gods in your family were called farmiliars. The bull god guy is smashing down a protective wall of lower Egypt and crushing a man inside once again claiming that the gods were on Narmer's side and helped him take over.

The End:
Well, this work is the earliest work standardizing this form of drawing humans. It is also implying that Narmer started the Dynastic periods of Egypt which is possible. This is one of the most famous pieces of ancient Egyptian art.

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