Egyptian Evidence of Violence

During this week’s lecture, we discussed the discovery and interpretation of one artistic representation of ancient violence depicted on the Narmer Palette.  The Narmer Palette was discovered in the ancient city of Hierakonpolis and dates to roughly 3100  B.C. (Ethan Watrall, class discussion 10/9/2012).  On one side of the Narmer Palette is a figure of King Narmer holding a mace and preparing to smite a man kneeling before him.  Interestingly, I read another source this week discussing the evidence of violence in Ancient Egypt.  In her book chapter entitled “Ancient Egypt and Nubia as a Source of Information for Violent Cranial Injuries”, Joyce Filer discusses the multiple interpretive forms of violence found in Egypt (1997).  Filer suggests that Egypt is a unique environment with traditions that support the preservation and creation of multiple evidentiary sources of violence.  Filer specifically discusses artistic, textual and biological manifestations of violence.  Nubia in particular, is said to be rich in cranial injuries, textual references such as the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, and artistic representations of the causative agents of these injuries.  One example of an artistic representation presented by Filer was the Narmer Palette.   This article was of particular interest because my dissertation topic is interpersonal violence in Medieval Nubia.  Therefore, I am lucky to have multiple sources from which to draw conclusions on the causative agents of the trauma I am seeing in my dissertation collection.  Another point that I would like to highlight from both this week’s class lecture and the chapter by Filer is the fact that many of the artistic representations of violence are symbolic rather than an actual act of violence.  However, Filer suggests that whether the act depicted is real or symbolic is immaterial from an archaeological standpoint (1997:71).  While the Narmer Palette is probably not depicting the actual event of King Narmer smiting a prisoner, it does symbolize the Egyptian believe in the King’s divine right of rule (Filer 1997:71).  The symbolic representation is therefore still representative of Egyptian beliefs and practices.




Filer, Joyce (1997).  Ancient Egypt and Nubia as a Source of Information for Violent Cranial Injuries.  In Material Harm: Archaeological Studies of War and Violence. John Carman, ed.  Cruithne Press.