The Palermo Stone (c. 2400 B.C.) was originally a basalt stela 6.5 feet high and 3 feet wide, inscribed on both sides with royal annals stretching back to prehistoric times. Although most of the stone is now missing, the principal extant fragment is in the Palermo Archaeological Museum, in Sicily, while smaller fragments are in London’s Petrie Museum and Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.


The period from the 1st through the 2nd Dynasty is called the Early Dynastic period; some scholars, though I am not one of them, include the 3rd


In later times, Egyptians habitually took off sandals before traversing sacred spaces, such as temples and tomb chapels. Also, in the Bible, as Moses approaches the burning bush, God tells him, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).


A particularly controversial point is whether the scenes on the Narmer Palette include references to actual historical events. In 1998 the American Egyptologist Frank Yurco reiterated an idea also expressed by earlier scholars that the palette shows Narmer as the “conqueror of the Delta” and the “first attested unifier of all Egypt.” Other scholars, however, flatly contradict this notion, following John Baines’s suggestion that the scenes on Narmer’s palette refer to a “ritual affirmation of conquest, not a real event.”



For the discovery of the palette, see Barbara Adams, Ancient Hierakonpolis Supplement (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, Warminster, 1974). For the date of the temple, see Adams, “Early Temples at Hierakonpolis and Beyond,” in Centenary of Mediterranean Archaeology 1898–1997, International Symposium Cracow, October 1997, (Cracow, 1999), pp. 15–28.


Toby H. Wilkinson, Early Dynastic Egypt (London: Routledge, 1999), pp. 60–94.


See Thomas E. Levy, Edwin C.M. van den Brink, Yuval Goren and David Alon, “New Light on King Narmer and the Protodynastic Egyptian Presence in Canaan,” Biblical Archaeologist 58:1 (March 1995), pp. 26–35.


Beatrix Midant-Reynes, The Prehistory of Egypt (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), chapter 7 and p. 264, chart 3. On the palettes, see most recently E. Christiana Köhler, “History or Ideology? New reflections on the Narmer Palette and the nature of Foreign Relations in Pre- and Early Dynastic Egypt,” in Edwin C.M. van den Brink and Thomas Levy, eds., Egypt and the Levant. Interrelations from the 4th through the early 3rd Millennium B.C. (London: Leicester University Press, 2002), pp. 505–507.


Günter Dreyer, Umm el-Qaab I. Das prädynastische Königsgrab U-j und seine frühen schriftzeugnisse (Mainz: Verlag Phillip von Zabern, 1998), pp. 47–83, 113–145, 181–188; and Wilkinson, “Did the Egyptians invent writing?”, in Bill Manley, ed., The Seventy Great Mysteries of Ancient Egypt (London: Thames & Hudson, 2003), pp. 24–27.


Vivian Davies and Renée Friedman, “The Narmer Palette: a Forgotten Member,” Nekhen News 10 (1998), p. 22.


Whitney Davis, Masking the Blow: The Scene of Representation in Late Prehistoric Egyptian Art, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), pp. 165–178.


See the discussion and references in D. Wengrow, “Rethinking ‘Cattle Cults’ in Early Egypt: Towards a Prehistoric Perspective on the Narmer Palette,” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 11:1 (2001), pp. 91–104; and Köhler, “History or Ideology?” Note also the useful survey Jacques Kinnaer, “What is Really Known About the Narmer Palette?” KMT 15:1 (2004), pp. 48–54. See also John Baines, “Origins of Egyptian Kingship,” in David O’Connor and David Silverman, eds., Ancient Egyptian Kingship (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995), pp. 109–121. For a more extensive and controversial presentation, see Davis, Masking the Blow.


Köhler, “History or Ideology?” p. 504.


See, for example, James Henry Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1906), vol 3:, pp. 247–249, 255; vol. 4: pp. 30–31.


Köhler, “History or Ideology?” p. 511.


Nicholas B. Millet, “The Narmer Macehead and Related Objects,” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 27 (1990), pp. 53–9.


Dreyer, “Egypt’s earliest historical event,” Egyptian Archaeology. The Bulletin of the Egypt Exploration Society 16 (2000), pp. 6–7. See also Köhler, “History or Ideology?” p. 508.


O’Connor, “Context, Function and Program: Understanding Ceremonial Slate Palettes,” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 39 (2002, published in 2004), pp. 5–25.


Orly Goldwasser, “The Narmer Palette and the ‘Triumph of Metaphor’,” Lingua Aegyptia. Journal of Egyptian Language Studies 2 (1992), p. 79.