Skip to content

Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt – Narmer, Part Two

  • by

This is part of a Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt listen through. You can find this lecture series at The Great Courses. As of 7 Sep 2015, it’s on sale for $15.95 USD.

In Part One of this episode’s listen through, I kind of laid the groundwork for discussing this course – mentioned Dr. Brier’s delivery and his stated intent for the lecture series. So let’s get into the meat of the episode.

We begin looking at these leaders with Narmer, the first king of a united Egypt. The discussion focuses on the Narmer Palette, a board Dr. Brier asserts was used to mix cosmetics for the statues of deities held in each temple’s holy of holies. In Nefertiti Overdrive, part of the MacGuffin is the icon of Amun-Ra. It is supposed to be much smaller than the statues referred to in this episode, which are about a metre in height, but the idea is the same. I imagined the icons before I heard about the statues, but it’s nice that it gives the game a little bit of verisimilitude while also being incredibly wrong.

What was more interesting to me, from a simple background idea, was the statement that all Egyptians wore cosmetics. Specifically, Dr. Brier mentions everyone wearing eye makeup, mostly dark cosmetics under their eyes to help manage the glare of the sun. This really informs how one would describe NPCs in a game or characters in fiction, but I wonder if it was literally all Egyptians or only those with a certain amount of wealth. Can you imagine the labourers working on the pyramids with their dark eye cosmetics? I honestly can’t.

Dr. Brier also engages in an interesting discussion regarding the crowns of Egypt – the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt were joined to make the crown of united Egypt, but an example of the crown has never been found. Dr. Brier points to Tutankhamen’s tomb, which was found intact, yet no crown. His thesis on this really works both for gamers and writers – the crown was magical. Now, Dr. Brier doesn’t mean it in a literal sense, but more in the sense of the consecration of kings in medieval Europe – the contemporaries considered it something magical.

I got thinking of game applications, in which each crown as a specific power, and linked together they become even more powerful. In a game set in the Roman period (unsurprising from the guy who wrote Centurion: Legionaries of Rome), Augustus might have sent out a crew of trusted people – legionaries and bureaucrats, Roman and provincials – to find the crowns he believes could help him piece together the fractured Empire – a Republic no longer. Or even better, this could be Aurelian or Diocletian following the Crisis of the Third Century.

Hey, you got your Roman history in my Egyptian. Wait, these are two tastes and that taste great together!

In the end, Dr. Brier focuses on the scenes on the Narmer Palette, including observations about the crown, because we don’t have much definitive information on Egypt at this time. Still, the discussions of the imagery on the palette provide a relatively wide-ranging discussion of early Egypt. It definitely got me invested and has me excited for episode two, “Sneferu, The Pyramid Builder.”

One last quick note, the series that I have purchased all come with a PDF course book, which is really helpful for both prep and recall, and generally provides references for further reading and research.

You can find out more about Nefertiti Overdrive: High Octane Action in Ancient Egypt here.

You can find Centurions: Legionaries of Rome at Amazon and Drive Thru RPG.