King Narmer Jar
An Egyptian pottery wavy-handled jar inscribed for king Narmer. Formed of Nile alluvial clay, the surface ranging in color from light reddish-brown to beige-cream, of elongated ovoid form, on a slightly convex base, with rounded shoulders and an overhanging rim.
The shoulders with triple-arching wavy handles, with a three-character inscription incised below one of the handles, consisting of: to the right, a vertical line topped with two shorter oblique lines, perhaps representing a tree. And to the left: a stylized catfish, its head to the right, its triangular tail to the left, directly above a vertically divided rectangle.
The present jar is quite possibly the largest intact object inscribed for Narmer presently in a private collection, and is one of fewer than fifty published objects preserving his name.
Although Narmer is believed to be the first king to unify the Two Lands of Upper and Lower Egypt, all objects previously known on which Narmer’s name appears have been found either in upper Egypt or greater Canaan.
No objects inscribed for Narmer are known to have been found in lower Egypt, although two clay jar stoppers found in Narmer’s tomb at Abydos are, like the present vase, made from alluvial clays from the vicinity of Tell el-Dab’a, ancient Avaris, in the Delta (this has been confirmed by neutron activation analysis).
Thus, the present vase appears to be the first object to be identified as proof of Narmer’s actual presence in Lower Egypt.
Of the two hieroglyphs that generally make up Narmer’s name (n’r = catfish; m’r = chisel), only the first is present on this jar. Below the catfish is a vertically divided rectangle, an early version of a Serekh, confirming that this represents royal titulary.
Before the introduction of the cartouche to designate royal titulary, the name of the king was indicated through the use of a Serekh, a rectangle believed by some scholars to represent a palace facade, often set-off by the use of several horizontal or vertical lines.
A Serekh similar to the present example has been excavated at Abydos. The stylized pictograph, perhaps a tree, to the right suggests that the jar and its contents originally came from an estate of Narmer’s in the Delta.
Early Dynastic Period, reign of Narmer, circa 3000 B.C. Dimensions: 21¾ in. (55.2 cm.) high. Now in the Private Collection. ex Christie’s.