chapter  3
45 Pages

The violence inherent in the system

Imagery and royal ideology in the period of state formation
WithLaurel Bestock

This chapter discusses the great majority of depictions that have been found in temple deposits, with elite tombs a poor second as a context for violent imagery. The introduction of notable abstractions in images of violence belongs to the Protodynastic Period. The images of violence on the Narmer Palette have a combination of apparent references to specifics and to universals; some aspects, particularly images of the king, can be read as both simultaneously. The largest scene on the Narmer Palette is a smiting scene, and here there can be no doubt that it deserves the name, that it is the icon familiar from later periods, and that parallels to the Islamic State beheading images can help people to understand how such an icon functioned in the rapidly emerging Egyptian state. The combination of specific and universal elements on the Narmer Palette is the underlying reason behind divergent interpretations of the object as recording historical 'fact' or mythical kingship.