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Narmer (Ancient Egyptian : nꜥr-mr , meaning "painful, "stinging," "harsh," or "fierce catfish;" [1] [2] [3] r. c. 3273  2987 BC) was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the Early Dynastic Period. [4] He was the successor to the Protodynastic king Ka. Many scholars consider him the unifier of Egypt and founder of the First Dynasty, and in turn the first king of a unified Egypt. A majority of Egyptologists believe that Narmer was the same person as Menes. [lower-alpha 1] [6] [7] [8]


Historical identity

Limestone head of a king. Thought by Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London, to be Narmer, on the basis of the similarity (according to Petrie ) to the head of Narmer on the Narmer Palette. This has not been generally accepted. According to Trope, Quirke & Lacovara, the suggestion that it is Narmer is "unlikely". Alternatively, they suggest the Fourth Dynasty king Khufu. Stevenson also identifies it as Khufu. Charron identifies it as a king of the Thinite Period (the first two dynasties), but does not believe it can be assigned to any particular king. Wilkinson describes it as "probably Second Dynasty". Limestone head of a king. Thought by Petrie to be Narmer. Bought by Petrie in Cairo, Egypt. 1st Dynasty. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London.jpg
Limestone head of a king. Thought by Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London, to be Narmer, on the basis of the similarity (according to Petrie ) to the head of Narmer on the Narmer Palette. This has not been generally accepted. According to Trope, Quirke & Lacovara, the suggestion that it is Narmer is "unlikely". Alternatively, they suggest the Fourth Dynasty king Khufu. Stevenson also identifies it as Khufu. Charron identifies it as a king of the Thinite Period (the first two dynasties), but does not believe it can be assigned to any particular king. Wilkinson describes it as "probably Second Dynasty".

Narmer's identity is the subject of ongoing debates, although the dominant opinion among Egyptologists identifies Narmer with the pharaoh Menes, who is renowned in the ancient Egyptian written records as the first king, and the unifier of Ancient Egypt. Narmer's identification with Menes is based on the Narmer Palette (which shows Narmer as the unifier of Egypt) and the two necropolis seals from the Umm el-Qa'ab cemetery of Abydos that show him as the first king of the First Dynasty.

The date commonly given for the beginning of Narmer's reign is c. 3100 BC. [14] [15] Other mainstream estimates, using both the historical method and radiocarbon dating, are in the range c. 3273–2987 BC. [lower-alpha 2]


Serekhs bearing the rebus symbols n'r (catfish) and mr (chisel) inside, being the phonetic representation of Narmer's name. Narmer Palette verso serekh.png
Serekhs bearing the rebus symbols n'r (catfish) and mr (chisel) inside, being the phonetic representation of Narmer's name.

The complete spelling of Narmer's name consists of the hieroglyphs for a catfish ( nꜥr ) [4] and a chisel ( mr ), hence the reading "Narmer" (using the rebus principle). This word is sometimes translated as "raging catfish". [17] However, there is no consensus on this reading. Other translations include ″angry, fighting, fierceful, painful, furious, bad, evil, biting, menacing″, or "stinging catfish". [1] [2] [3] Some scholars have taken entirely different approaches to reading the name that do not include "catfish" in the name at all, [18] [19] [20] but these approaches have not been generally accepted.

Rather than incorporating both hieroglyphs, Narmer's name is often shown in an abbreviated form with just the catfish symbol, sometimes stylized, even, in some cases, represented by just a horizontal line. [21] This simplified spelling appears to be related to the formality of the context. In every case that a serekh is shown on a work of stone, or an official seal impression, it has both symbols. But, in most cases, where the name is shown on a piece of pottery or a rock inscription, just the catfish, or a simplified version of it appears.

Two alternative spellings of Narmer's name have also been found. On a mud sealing from Tarkhan, the symbol for the ṯꜣj -bird (Gardiner sign G47 "duckling") has been added to the two symbols for ″Narmer″ within the serekh. This has been interpreted as meaning "Narmer the masculine"; [22] however, according to Ilona Regulski, [23] "The third sign (the [ṯꜣj]-bird) is not an integral part of the royal name since it occurs so infrequently." Godron [24] suggested that the extra sign is not part of the name, but was put inside the serekh for compositional convenience.

In addition, two necropolis seals from Abydos show the name in a unique way: While the chisel is shown conventionally where the catfish would be expected, there is a symbol that has been interpreted by several scholars as an animal skin. [25] According to Dreyer, it is probably a catfish with a bull's tail, similar to the image of Narmer on the Narmer Palette in which he is shown wearing a bull's tail as a symbol of power. [26]


Possible identification with Menes

Comparison of serekhs
Detail from Narmer inscription on alabaster vessel from Abydos.jpg
Name of Narmer in full format.
Menes name in full format.jpg
Name of Hor-Aha in full format.
Reconstruction of the Narmer-Menes Seal impression from Abydos Narmer-Menes seal impression.jpg
Reconstruction of the Narmer-Menes Seal impression from Abydos
Naqada Label reconstruction Garstang 1905, p. 62, fig3 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFGarstang1905 (help) Naqad Label.jpg
Naqada Label reconstruction Garstang 1905 , p. 62, fig3

Although highly interrelated, the questions of "who was Menes?" and "who unified Egypt?" are actually two separate issues. Narmer is often credited with the unification of Egypt by means of the conquest of Lower Egypt by Upper Egypt. While Menes is traditionally considered the first king of Ancient Egypt, Narmer has been identified by the majority of Egyptologists as the same person as Menes. Although vigorously debated (Hor-Aha, Narmer's successor, is the primary alternative identified as Menes by many authorities), the predominant opinion is that Narmer was Menes. [lower-alpha 3]

The issue is confusing because "Narmer" is a Horus name while "Menes" is a Sedge and Bee name (personal or birth name). All of the King Lists which began to appear in the New Kingdom era list the personal names of the kings, and almost all begin with Menes, or begin with divine and/or semi-divine rulers, with Menes as the first "human king". The difficulty is aligning the contemporary archaeological evidence which lists Horus Names with the King Lists that list personal names.

Two documents have been put forward as proof either that Narmer was Menes or alternatively Hor-Aha was Menes. The first is the "Naqada Label" which shows a serekh of Hor-Aha next to an enclosure inside of which are symbols that have been interpreted by some scholars as the name "Menes". The second is the seal impression from Abydos that alternates between a serekh of Narmer and the chessboard symbol, "mn", which is interpreted as an abbreviation of Menes. Arguments have been made with regard to each of these documents in favour of Narmer or Hor-Aha being Menes, but in neither case is the argument conclusive. [lower-alpha 4]

The second document, the seal impression from Abydos, shows the serekh of Narmer alternating with the gameboard sign ( mn ) sign, together with its phonetic complement, the n sign, which is always shown when the full name of Menes is written, again representing the name “Menes”. At first glance, this would seem to be strong evidence that Narmer was Menes. [30] However, based on an analysis of other early First Dynasty seal impressions, which contain the name of one or more princes, the seal impression has been interpreted by other scholars as showing the name of a prince of Narmer named Menes, hence Menes was Narmer's successor, Hor-Aha, and thus Hor-Aha was Menes. [31] This was refuted by Cervelló-Autuori 2005 , pp. 42–45; but opinions still vary, and the seal impression cannot be said to definitively support either theory. [32]

Necropolis seal impression of Qa'a Dreyer 1987, p. 36, fig.3 Abydos necropolis seal impression of Qa'a.jpg
Necropolis seal impression of Qa'a Dreyer 1987 , p. 36, fig.3

Two necropolis sealings, found in 1985 and 1991 in Abydos, in or near the tombs of Den [33] and Qa'a, [34] show Narmer as the first king on each list, followed by Hor-Aha. The Qa'a sealing lists all eight of the kings of what scholars now call the First Dynasty in the correct order, starting with Narmer. These necropolis sealings are strong evidence that Narmer was the first king of the First Dynasty—hence is the same person as Menes. [35]

Narmer and the unification of Egypt

The famous Narmer Palette, discovered by James E. Quibell in the 1897–1898 season at Hierakonpolis, [36] shows Narmer wearing the crown of Upper Egypt on one side of the palette, and the crown of Lower Egypt on the other side, giving rise to the theory that Narmer unified the two lands. [37] Since its discovery, however, it has been debated whether the Narmer Palette represents an actual historic event or is purely symbolic. [lower-alpha 5] Of course, the Narmer Palette could represent an actual historical event while at the same time having a symbolic significance.

In 1993, Günter Dreyer discovered a "year label" of Narmer at Abydos, depicting the same event that is depicted on the Narmer Palette. In the First Dynasty, years were identified by the name of the king and an important event that occurred in that year. A "year label" was typically attached to a container of goods and included the name of the king, a description or representation of the event that identified the year, and a description of the attached goods. This year label shows that the Narmer Palette depicts an actual historical event. [38] Support for this conclusion (in addition to Dreyer) includes Wilkinson [39] and Davies & Friedman. [40] Although this interpretation of the year label is the dominant opinion among Egyptologists, there are exceptions including Baines [41] and Wengrow. [42]

Narmer Palette
Narmer Palette.jpg
Narmer Palette
Narmer Palette, recto.jpg
Drawing (front).
Narmer Palette, verso.jpg
Drawing (back).
Narmer mace-head
Narmer Macehead drawing.jpg
Narmer Macehead (drawing). The design shows captives being presented to Pharaoh Narmer enthroned in a naos. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. [43]
The scene depicts a ceremony in which captives and plunder are presented to King Narmer, who is enthroned beneath a canopy on a stepped platform. He wears the Red Crown of Lower Egypt, holds a flail, and is wrapped in a long cloak. To the left, Narmer's name is written inside a representation of the palace facade (the serekh) surmounted by a falcon. At the bottom is a record of animal and human plunder; 400,000 cattle, 1,422,000 goats, and 120,000 captives [44]

Archaeological evidence suggests that Egypt was at least partially unified during the reigns of Ka and Iry-Hor (Narmer's immediate predecessors), and perhaps as early as Scorpion I (several generations before Iry-Hor). Tax collection is probably documented for Ka [45] and Iry-Hor. [46] The evidence for a role for Scorpion I in Lower Egypt comes from his tomb Uj in Abydos (Upper Egypt), where labels were found identifying goods from Lower Egypt. [47] These are not tax documents, however, so they are probably indications of trade rather than subjugation. There is a substantial difference in the quantity and distribution of inscriptions with the names of those earlier kings in Lower Egypt and Canaan (which was reached through Lower Egypt), compared to the inscriptions of Narmer. Ka's inscriptions have been found in three sites in Lower Egypt and one in Canaan. [48] Iry-Hor inscriptions have also been found in two sites in Lower Egypt and one in Canaan. [48] [49] This must be compared to Narmer, whose serekhs have been found in ten sites in Lower Egypt and nine sites in Canaan (see discussion in "Tomb and Artefacts" section). This demonstrates a qualitative difference between Narmer's role in Lower Egypt compared to his two immediate predecessors. There is no evidence in Lower Egypt of any Upper Egyptian king's presence before Iry-Hor. The archaeological evidence suggest that the unification began before Narmer, but was completed by him through the conquest of a polity in the North-West Delta as depicted on the Narmer Palette. [50]

The importance that Narmer attached to his "unification" of Egypt is shown by the fact that it is commemorated not only on the Narmer Palette, but on a cylinder seal, [51] the Narmer Year Label, [38] and the Narmer Boxes; [52] and the consequences of the event are commemorated on the Narmer Macehead. [53] The importance of the unification to ancient Egyptians is shown by the fact that Narmer is shown as the first king on the two necropolis seals, and under the name Menes, the first king in the later King Lists. Although there is archaeological evidence of a few kings before Narmer, none of them is mentioned in any of those sources. It can be accurately said that from the point of view of Ancient Egyptians, history began with Narmer and the unification of Egypt, and that everything before him was relegated to the realm of myth.

Narmer in Canaan

According to Manetho (quoted in Eusebius (Fr. 7(a))), "Menes made a foreign expedition and won renown." If this is correct (and assuming it refers to Narmer), it was undoubtedly to the land of Canaan where Narmer's serekh has been identified at nine different sites. An Egyptian presence in Canaan predates Narmer, but after about 200 years of active presence in Canaan, [54] Egyptian presence peaked during Narmer's reign and quickly declined afterwards. The relationship between Egypt and Canaan "began around the end of the fifth millennium and apparently came to an end sometime during the Second Dynasty when it ceased altogether." [55] It peaked during the Dynasty 0 through the reign of Narmer. [56] Dating to this period are 33 Egyptian serekhs found in Canaan, [57] among which 20 have been attributed to Narmer. Prior to Narmer, only one serekh of Ka and one inscription with Iry-Hor's name have been found in Canaan. [58] The serekhs earlier than Iry-Hor are either generic serekhs that do not refer to a specific king, or are for kings not attested in Abydos. [56] Indicative of the decline of Egyptian presence in the region after Narmer, only one serekh attributed to his successor, Hor-Aha, has been found in Canaan. [56] Even this one example is questionable, Wilkinson does not believe there are any serekhs of Hor-Aha outside Egypt [59] and very few serekhs of kings for the rest of the first two dynasties have been found in Canaan. [60]

The Egyptian presence in Canaan is best demonstrated by the presence of pottery made from Egyptian Nile clay and found in Canaan, [lower-alpha 6] as well as pottery made from local clay, but in the Egyptian style. The latter suggests the existence of Egyptian colonies rather than just trade. [62]

The nature of Egypt's role in Canaan has been vigorously debated, between scholars who suggest a military invasion [63] and others proposing that only trade and colonization were involved. Although the latter has gained predominance, [62] [64] the presence of fortifications at Tell es-Sakan dating to the Dynasty 0 through early Dynasty 1 period, and built almost entirely using an Egyptian style of construction, demonstrate that there must have also been some kind of Egyptian military presence. [65]

Regardless of the nature of Egypt's presence in Canaan, control of trade to (and through) Canaan was important to Ancient Egypt. Narmer probably did not establish Egypt's initial influence in Canaan by a military invasion, but a military campaign by Narmer to re-assert Egyptian authority, or to increase its sphere of influence in the region, is certainly plausible. In addition to the quote by Manetho, and the large number of Narmer serekhs found in Canaan, a recent reconstruction of a box of Narmer's by Dreyer may have commemorated a military campaign in Canaan. [66] It may also represent just the presentation of tribute to Narmer by Canaanites. [66]


Narmer and Hor-Aha's names were both found in what is believed to be Neithhotep's tomb, which led Egyptologists to conclude that she was Narmer's queen and mother of Hor-Aha. [67] Neithhotep's name means "Neith is satisfied". This suggests that she was a princess of Lower Egypt (based on the fact that Neith is the patron goddess of Sais in the Western Delta, exactly the area Narmer conquered to complete the unification of Egypt), and that this was a marriage to consolidate the two regions of Egypt. [67] The fact that her tomb is in Naqada, in Upper Egypt, has led some to the conclusion that she was a descendant of the predynastic rulers of Naqada who ruled prior to its incorporation into a united Upper Egypt. [68] It has also been suggested that the Narmer Macehead commemorates this wedding. [69] However, the discovery in 2012 of rock inscriptions in Sinai by Pierre Tallet [70] raise questions about whether she was really Narmer's wife. [lower-alpha 7]

Tomb and artefacts


Chambers B17 and B18 in the Umm el-Qa'ab, which constitute the tomb of Narmer. Chambers B17 and B18 (Umm el-Qa'ab).jpg
Chambers B17 and B18 in the Umm el-Qa'ab, which constitute the tomb of Narmer.

Narmer's tomb in Umm el-Qa'ab near Abydos in Upper Egypt consists of two joined chambers (B17 and B18), lined in mud brick. Although both Émile Amélineau and Petrie excavated tombs B17 and B18, it was only in 1964 that Kaiser identified them as being Narmer's. [72] [lower-alpha 8] Narmer's tomb is located next to the tombs of Ka, who likely ruled Upper Egypt just before Narmer, and Hor-Aha, who was his immediate successor. [lower-alpha 9]

As the tomb dates back more than 5,000 years, and has been pillaged, repeatedly, from antiquity to modern times, it is amazing that anything useful could be discovered in it. Because of the repeated disturbances in Umm el-Qa'ab, many articles of Narmer's were found in other graves, and objects of other kings, were recovered in Narmer's grave. However, Flinders Petrie during the period 1899–1903, [75] [76] and, starting in the 1970s, the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) [lower-alpha 10] have made discoveries of the greatest importance to the history of Early Egypt by their re-excavation of the tombs of Umm el-Qa'ab.

Despite the chaotic condition of the cemetery, inscriptions on both wood and bone, seal impressions, as well as dozens of flint arrowheads (Petrie says with dismay that "hundreds" of arrowheads were discovered by "the French", presumably Amélineau. What happened to them is not clear, but none ended up in the Cairo Museum. [77] ) Flint knives and a fragment of an ebony chair leg were also discovered in Narmer's tomb, all of which might be part of the original funerary assemblage. The flint knives and fragment of a chair leg were not included in any of Petrie's publications, but are now at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology (University College London), registration numbers UC35679, UC52786, and UC35682. According to Dreyer, [26] these arrowheads are probably from the tomb of Djer, where similar arrowheads were found. [78]

It is likely that all of the kings of Ancient Egypt buried in Umm el-Qa'ab had funerary enclosures in Abydos' northern cemetery, near the cultivation line. These were characterized by large mud brick walls that enclosed space in which funerary ceremonies are believed to have taken place. Eight enclosures have been excavated, two of which have not been definitely identified. [79] [80] While it has yet to be confirmed, one of these unidentified funerary enclosures may have belonged to Narmer. [lower-alpha 11]


Narmer serekh on pottery sherd from Nahal Tillah (Canaan) showing stylized catfish and absence of chisel, Courtesy Thomas E. Levy, Levantine and Cyber-Archaeology Laboratory, UC San Diego Narmer serekh from Nahal Tillah.jpg
Narmer serekh on pottery sherd from Nahal Tillah (Canaan) showing stylized catfish and absence of chisel, Courtesy Thomas E. Levy, Levantine and Cyber-Archaeology Laboratory, UC San Diego

Narmer is well attested throughout Egypt, southern Canaan and Sinai: altogether 98 inscriptions at 26 sites. [lower-alpha 12] At Abydos and Hierakonpolis Narmer's name appears both within a serekh and without reference to a serekh. At every other site except Coptos, Narmer's name appears in a serekh. In Egypt, his name has been found at 17 sites: 4 in Upper Egypt (Hierakonpolis, [86] Naqada, [87] [88] Abydos, [75] [76] and Coptos [89] [90] ); ten in Lower Egypt (Tarkhan, [91] [92] Helwan, [93] [94] Zawyet el'Aryan, [95] Tell Ibrahim Awad, [96] Ezbet el-Tell, [97] Minshat Abu Omar, [98] [99] Saqqara, [100] [101] Buto, [102] Tell el-Farkha, [103] [104] and Kafr Hassan Dawood [105] ); one in the Eastern Desert (Wadi el-Qaash [106] ); and two in the Western Desert (Kharga Oasis [107] [108] and Gebel Tjauti [109] [110] ).

During Narmer's reign, Egypt had an active economic presence in southern Canaan. Pottery sherds have been discovered at several sites, both from pots made in Egypt and imported to Canaan and others made in the Egyptian style out of local materials. Twenty serekhs have been found in Canaan that may belong to Narmer, but seven of those are uncertain or controversial. These serekhs came from eight different sites: Tel Arad, [111] [112] En Besor (Ein HaBesor), [113] [114] Tel es-Sakan, [115] [116] Nahal Tillah (Halif Terrace), [117] Tel Erani (Tel Gat), [118] [119] Small Tel Malhata, [120] [121] Tel Ma'ahaz, [122] and Tel Lod, [123]

Narmer's serekh, along with those of other Predynastic and Early Dynastic kings, has been found at the Wadi 'Ameyra in the southern Sinai, where inscriptions commemorate Egyptian mining expeditions to the area. [124] [125]

Nag el-Hamdulab

First recorded at the end of the 19th century, an important series of rock carving at Nag el-Hamdulab near Aswan was rediscovered in 2009, and its importance only realized then. [126] [127] [128] Among the many inscriptions, tableau 7a shows a man wearing a headdress similar to the White Crown of Upper Egypt and carrying a scepter. He is followed by a man with a fan. He is then preceded by two men with standards, and accompanied by a dog. Apart from the dog motif, this scene is similar to scenes on the Scorpion Macehead and the recto of the Narmer Palette. The man—armed with pharaonic regalia (the crown and scepter) can clearly be identified as a king. Although no name appears in the tableau, Darnell [127] attributes it to Narmer, based on the iconography, and suggests that it might represent an actual visit to the region by Narmer for a "Following of Horus" ritual. In an interview in 2012, Gatto [129] also describes the king in the inscription as Narmer. However, Hendricks (2016) places the scene slightly before Narmer, based, in part on the uncharacteristic absence of Narmer's royal name in the inscription.

See also


  1. Egyptologists have long debated whether Menes was the same person as Narmer or Hor-Aha, Narmer’s successor. A 2014 study by Thomas C. Heagy published in the Egyptological journal Archéo-Nil compiled a list of 69 Egyptologists who took either position. 41 of them have concluded that Menes was Narmer, while 31 have concluded that Menes was Hor-Aha. Three Egyptologists  Flinders Petrie, Kurt Sethe, and Stan Hendrickx  on the list have first concluded that Menes was Hor-Aha, but later concluded that Menes was Narmer. [5]
  2. Establishing absolute dating for Ancient Egypt relies on two different methods, each of which is problematic. As a starting point, the Historical Method makes use of astronomical events that are recorded in Ancient Egyptian texts, which establishes a starting point in which an event in Egyptian history is given an unambiguous absolute date. “Dead reckoning” – adding or subtracting the length of each king’s reign (based primarily on Manetho, the Turin King List, and the Palermo Stone) is then used until one gets to the reign of the king in question. However, there is uncertainty about the length of reigns, especially in the Archaic Period and the Intermediate Periods. Two astrological events are available to anchor these estimates, one in the Middle Kingdom and one in the New Kingdom (for a discussion of the problems in establishing absolute dates for Ancient Egypt, see Shaw 2000a, pp. 1–16). Two estimates based on this method are: Hayes 1970, p. 174, who gives the beginning of the reign of Narmer/Menes as 3114 BC, which he rounds to 3100 BC; and, Krauss & Warburton 2006, p. 487 who places the ascent of Narmer to the throne of Egypt as c. 2950 BC. Several estimates of the beginning of the First Dynasty assume that it began with Hor-Aha. Setting aside the question of whether the First Dynasty began with Narmer or Hor-Aha, to calculate the beginning of Narmer’s reign from these estimates, they must be adjusted by the length of Narmer’s reign. Unfortunately, there are no reliable estimates of the length of Narmer’s reign. In the absence of other evidence, scholars use Manetho’s estimate of the length of the reign of Menes, i.e. 62 years. If one assumes that Narmer and Menes are the same person, this places the date for the beginning of Narmer’s reign at 62 years earlier than the date for the beginning of the First Dynasty given by the authors who associate the beginning of the First Dynasty with the start of Hor-Aha’s reign. Estimates of the beginning of Narmer’s reign calculated in this way include von Beckerath 1997, p. 179 (c. 3094–3044 BC); Helck 1986, p. 28 (c. 2987 BC); Kitchen 2000, p. 48 (c. 3092 BC), and Shaw 2000b, p. 480 (c. 3062 BC). Considering all six estimates suggests a range of c. 3114 – 2987 BC based on the Historical Method. The exception to the mainstream consensus, is Mellaart 1979, pp. 9–10 who estimates the beginning of the First Dynasty to be c. 3400 BC. However, since he reached this conclusion by disregarding the Middle Kingdom astronomical date, his conclusion is not widely accepted. Radiocarbon Dating has, unfortunately, its own problems: According to Hendrickx 2006, p. 90, “the calibration curves for the (second half) of the 4th millennium BC show important fluctuations with long possible data ranges as a consequence. It is generally considered a ‘bad period’ for Radiocarbon dating.” Using a statistical approach, including all available carbon 14 dates for the Archaic Period, reduces, but does not eliminate, these inherent problems. Dee & et al., uses this approach, and derive a 65% confidence interval estimate for the beginning of the First Dynasty of c. 3211 – 3045 BC. However, they define the beginning of the First Dynasty as the beginning of the reign of Hor-Aha. There are no radiocarbon dates for Narmer, so to translate this to the beginning of Narmer’s reign one must again adjust for the length of Narmer’s reign of 62 years, which gives a range of c. 3273–3107 BC for the beginning of Narmer’s reign. This is reassuringly close to the range of mainstream Egyptologists using the Historical Method of c. 3114 – 2987 BC. Thus, combining the results of two different methodologies allows to place the accession of Narmer to c. 3273 – 2987 BC.
  3. The question of who was Menes – hence, who was the first king of the First Dynasty has been hotly debated. Since 1897, 70 different authors have taken an opinion on whether it is Narmer or Aha. [5] Most of these are only passing references, but there have been several in depth analyses on both sides of the issues. Recent discussions in favor of Narmer include Kinnaer 2001, Cervelló-Autuori 2005, and Heagy 2014. Detailed discussions in favor of Aha include Helck 1953, Emery 1961, pp. 31–37, and Dreyer 2007. For the most part English speaking authors favor Narmer, while German speaking authors favor Hor-Aha. The most important evidence in favor of Narmer are the two necropolis seal impressions from Abydos, which list Narmer as the first king. Since the publication of the first of the necropolis sealings in 1987, 28 authors have published articles identifying Narmer with Menes compared to 14 who identify Narmer with Hor-Aha.
  4. In the upper right hand quarter of the Naqada label is a serekh of Hor-Aha. To its right is a hill-shaped triple enclosure with the “mn” sign surmounted by the signs of the “two ladies”, the goddesses of Upper Egypt (Nekhbet) and Lower Egypt (Wadjet). In later contexts, the presence of the “two ladies” would indicate a “nbty” name (one of the five names of the king). Hence, the inscription was interpreted as showing that the “nbty” name of Hor-Aha was “Mn” short for Menes. [27] An alternative theory is that the enclosure was a funeral shrine and it represents Hor-Aha burying his predecessor, Menes. Hence Menes was Narmer. [28] Although the label generated a lot of debate, it is now generally agreed that the inscription in the shrine is not a king’s name, but is the name of the shrine “The Two Ladies Endure,” and provide no evidence for who Menes was. [29]
  5. According to Schulman the Narmer Palette commemorates a conquest of Libyans that occurred earlier than Narmer, probably during Dynasty 0. Libyans, in this context, were not people who inhabited what is modern Libya, but rather peoples who lived in the north-west Delta of the Nile, which later became a part of Lower Egypt. Schulman describes scenes from Dynasty V (2 scenes), Dynasty VI, and Dynasty XXV. In each of these, the king is shown defeating the Libyans, personally killing their chief in a classic “smiting the enemy” pose. In three of these post-Narmer examples, the name of the wife and two sons of the chief are named – and they are the same names for all three scenes from vastly different periods. This proves that all, but the first representation, cannot be recording actual events, but are ritual commemorations of an earlier event. The same might also be true of the first example in Dynasty V. The scene on the Narmer Palette is similar, although it does not name the wife or sons of the Libyan chief. The Narmer Palette could represent the actual event on which the others are based. However, Schulman (following Breasted 1931) argues against this on the basis that the Palermo Stone shows predynastic kings wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt suggesting that they ruled a unified Egypt. Hence, the Narmer Palette, rather than showing a historic event during Narmer’s reign commemorates the defeat of the Libyans and the unification of Egypt which occurred earlier. Köhler 2002, p. 505 proposes that the Narmer Palette has nothing to do with the unification of Egypt. Instead she describes it as an example of the “subjecting the enemy” motif which goes back as far as Naqada Ic (about 400 years before Narmer), and which represents the ritual defeat of chaos, a fundamental role of the king. O’Connor 2011 also argues that it has nothing to do with the unification, but has a (very complicated) religious meaning.
  6. During the summer of 1994, excavators from the Nahal Tillah expedition, in southern Israel, discovered an incised ceramic sherd with the serekh sign of Narmer. The sherd was found on a large circular platform, possibly the foundations of a storage silo on the Halif Terrace. Dated to c. 3000 BCE, mineralogical studies conducted on the sherd conclude that it is a fragment of a wine jar which had been imported from the Nile valley to Canaan. [61]
  7. In 2012, Pierre Tallet discovered an important new series of rock carvings in Wadi Ameyra. This discovery was reported in Tallet 2015, and in 2016 in two web articles by Owen Jarus [71] These inscriptions strongly suggest that Neithhotep was Djer’s regent for a period of time, but do not resolve the question of whether she was Narmer’s queen. In the first of Jarus’ articles, he quotes Tallet as saying that Neithhotep “was not the wife of Narmer”. However, Tallet, in a personal communication with Thomas C. Heagy explained that he had been misquoted. According to Tallet, she could have been Narmer’s wife (Djer’s grandmother), but that it is more likely (because Narmer and Hor-Aha are both thought to have had long reigns) that she was in the next generation – for example Djer’s mother or aunt. This is consistent with the discussion in Tallet 2015, pp. 28–29.
  8. For a discussion of Cemetery B see Dreyer 1999, pp. 110–11, fig. 7 and Wilkinson 2000, pp. 29–32, fig. 2
  9. Narmer’s tomb has much more in common with the tombs of his immediate predecessors, Ka and Iry-Hor, and other late Predynastic tombs in Umm el-Qa’ab than it does with later 1st Dynasty tombs. Narmer’s tomb is 31 sq. meters compared to Hor-Aha, whose tomb is more than three times as large, not counting Hor-Aha's 36 subsidiary graves. According to Deyer, [73] Narmer’s tomb is even smaller than the tomb of Scorpion I (tomb Uj), several generations earlier. [74] In addition, the earlier tombs of Narmer, Ka, and Iry-Hor all have two chambers with no subsidiary chambers, while later tombs in the 1st Dynasty all have more complex structures including subsidiary chambers for the tombs of retainers, who were probably sacrificed to accompany the king in the afterlife.O’Connor 2009, pp. 148–150 To avoid confusion, it's important to understand that he classifies Narmer as the last king of the 0 Dynasty rather than the first king of the 1st Dynasty, in part because Narmer’s tomb has more in common with the earlier 0 Dynasty tombs than it does with the later 1st Dynasty tombs.Dreyer 2003, p. 64 also makes the argument that the major shift in tomb construction that began with Hor-Aha, is evidence that Hor-Aha, rather than Narmer was the first king of the 1st Dynasty.
  10. Numerous publications with either Werner Kaiser or his successor, Günter Dreyer, as the lead author – most of them published in MDAIK beginning in 1977
  11. Next to Hor-Aha’s enclosure is a large, unattributed enclosure referred to as the “Donkey Enclosure” because of the presence of 10 donkeys buried next to the enclosure. No objects were found in the enclosure with a king’s name, but hundreds of seal impressions were found in the gateway chamber of the enclosure, all of which appear to date to the reigns of Narmer, Hor-Aha, or Djer. Hor-Aha and Djer both have enclosures identified, “making Narmer the most attractive candidate for the builder of this monument”. [81] The main objection to its assignment to Narmer is that the enclosure is too big. It is larger than all three of Hor-Aha’s put together, while Hor-Aha’s tomb is much larger than Narmer’s tomb. For all of the clearly identified 1st Dynasty enclosures, there is a rough correlation between the size of the tomb and the size of the enclosure. Identifying the Donkey Enclosure with Narmer would violate that correlation. That leaves Hor-Aha and Djer. The objection to the assignment of the enclosure to Aha is the inconsistency of the subsidiary graves of Hor-Aha’s enclosure, and subsidiary graves of the donkeys. In addition, the seeming completeness of the Aha enclosure without the Donkey Enclosure, argues against Hor-Aha. This leaves Djer, whom Bestock considers the most likely candidate. The problems with this conclusion, as identified by Bestock, are that the Donkey Enclosure has donkeys in the subsidiary graves, whereas Djer has humans in his. In addition, there are no large subsidiary graves at Djer’s tomb complex that would correspond to the Donkey Enclosure. [82] She concludes that, “the interpretation and attribution of the Donkey Enclosure remain speculative.” [83] There are, however, two additional arguments for the attribution to Narmer: First, it is exactly where one would expect to find Narmer’s Funerary Enclosure – immediately next to Hor-Aha’s. Second, all of the 1st Dynasty tombs have subsidiary graves for humans except that of Narmer, and all of the attributed 1st Dynasty enclosures, except the Donkey Enclosure, have subsidiary graves for humans. But neither Narmer’s tomb nor the Donkey Enclosure have known subsidiary graves for humans. The lack of human subsidiary graves at both sites seems important. It is also possible that Narmer had a large funerary enclosure precisely because he had a small tomb. [84] [85] In the absence of finding an object with a Narmer’s name on it, any conclusion must be tentative, but it seems that the preponderance of evidence and logic support the identification of the Donkey Enclosure with Narmer.
  12. Of these inscriptions, 29 are controversial or uncertain. They include the unique examples from Coptos, En Besor, Tell el-Farkhan, Gebel Tjauti, and Kharga Oasis, as well as both inscriptions each from Buto and Tel Ma'ahaz. Sites with more than one inscription are footnoted with either references to the most representative inscriptions, or to sources that are the most important for that site. All of the inscriptions are included in the Narmer Catalog, which also includes extensive bibliographies for each inscription. Several references discuss substantial numbers of inscriptions. They include: Database of Early Dynastic Inscriptions, Kaplony 1963, Kaplony 1964, Kaiser & Dreyer 1982, Kahl 1994,van den Brink 1996, van den Brink 2001, Jiménez-Serrano 2003, Jiménez-Serrano 2007, and Pätznick 2009. Anđelković 1995 includes Narmer inscriptions from Canaan within the context of the overall relations between Canaan and Early Egypt, including descriptions of the sites in which they were found.

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Further reading