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Crowns, Egyptian much smaller scale (Figure 2), and are perhaps
indicative of a widespread practice. This under-
lines the emblematic significance of regalia,
which virtually functioned as “hieroglyphs”
FUNCTION within “iconographic sentences” that could be
read and altered by varying their constituent
Egyptian crowns and headdresses were an elements. Such an interpretation is supported
essential part of royal and divine dress and rega- by the tendency, especially from the New
lia. Curiously, few actual examples of head- Kingdom onwards, to combine royal crowns
dresses are preserved. The size and seemingly into complicated composite headdresses to
precarious fastening of several crown types as express new, or multiple, aspects of kingship. In
depicted (e.g., the high feather and horned royal (and divine) iconography, the occurrence
crowns and their later composites; Figure 1) and form of particular crowns may be used as a
suggest that many were not actually worn, or dating criterion, while their distribution within a
must have looked different in reality; some single artistic or architectural complex can reveal
surviving royal headdresses represent crown underlying decorational principles, including
elements (e.g., Double Feathers, see below) at a aspects of geography (cardinal points, Upper
and Lower Egypt) or ritual reciprocity between
officiant and god (e.g., Myśliwiec 1985).
Conferral of the crowns by the head of
the pantheon symbolized the adoption of a
divine role by the king; this idea extended to
funerary beliefs, where the deceased became
divinized by means of accepting crowns in
both texts and representations (Goebs 2008).
Accordingly, crowns later became a popular
motif for protective amulets.


Egyptian rulers were depicted wearing

distinctive headdresses from the Predynastic
period onwards. The best-known crowns
are the White and Red crowns, which
are already shown as complementary on the
NARMER palette (Goebs 2001). Especially when
combined as the Double Crown , they
express the dual aspect of Egyptian kingship,
including rule over the united Upper and
Lower Egypt. They were, moreover, thought
to be embodied in the tutelary goddesses
NEKHBET and Wadjyt (see WADJYT, WADJET).

Figure 1 The god Horus wearing the Double Owing to the Egyptians’ reluctance to dis-
Crown, signifying kingship over Upper and Lower card any culturally meaningful item or idea,
Egypt. Wall painting from the Tomb of Horemheb. when new crowns were introduced at various
Thebes, Egypt. © Ancient Art & Architecture historical junctures these were integrated into
Collection Ltd/Alamy. the existing canon of royal representation

The Encyclopedia of Ancient History, First Edition. Edited by Roger S. Bagnall, Kai Brodersen, Craige B. Champion, Andrew Erskine,
and Sabine R. Huebner, print pages 1847–1849.
© 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Published 2013 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
DOI: 10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah15092

prominence in the Middle Kingdom (see

AMUN-RE), and a pair of falcon or ostrich feathers
as well as ram’s horns and a solar disc; this
crown may stand in for the older Double
Feather Crown (shuty) . Hatshepsut’s
sequence comes to an end with a rare
combination headdress called the Crown of
Re (Figure 1). This set expresses multiple
aspects of the kingship, which encompasses
both the terrestrial and the cosmic realms.
The kerchiefs and circlets are always
augmented by the so-called uraeus, image of
the protective and fire-spitting serpent goddess
Wadjyt, embodiment of the solar disc. Texts
indicate that all crowns were ultimately
thought to be images of Wadjyt. After the
Old Kingdom, the uraeus was an integral part
of all crowns, and by the end of the 6th Dynasty
could be worn by royal women. Queens wore a
separate set of headdresses with their own
divine and cosmic associations. Most impor-
tant were those linked with the goddesses MUT
(the oldest being the Vulture Cap; see, e.g.,
Troy 1986: 117 ff.; Roth 2001: 107 ff.) and
Figure 2 The god Sobek wearing a crown HATHOR (Isis-Sothis Double Feather Crown
consisting of horns similar to those of Khnum, a from the 13th Dynasty onwards; e.g., Troy
sundisk, and a pair of feathers. Relief from the Sobek 1986: 126–9; Aufrère 1997; Roth 2001: 248).
and Horus Temple at Kom Ombo, Egypt. © Ancient Headbands and platform crowns with floral
Art and Architecture Collection Ltd/Alamy.
motifs were common for royal women of
lower rank, and – from the 18th Dynasty
rather than replacing older forms. By the New onwards – gazelle motifs, possibly borrowed
Kingdom, a sequence of coronation scenes from Syria (Troy 1986: 129–30). The few
shows HATSHEPSUT wearing ten different head- women who became pharaohs in their own
dresses. By the Ptolemaic period, crown right (see SOBEKNEFRU; HATSHEPSUT) adopted full
types had become so variegated that it is male regalia and crowns, and – at various junc-
impossible to give an exact number (e.g., tures – the range of queenly crowns was
Vassilika 1989). expanded to include elements of the male
Hatshepsut’s sequence includes, besides the set, likely to express a new and enhanced role
White and Red crowns, the blue and golden of the queen. Notable are the Amarna and
nemes (see TUTANKHAMUN); the white or Ptolemaic periods (see NEFERTITI; Ertman
golden khat or afnet ; the Blue Crown 1976; Dils 1998).
(khepresh, derived from the earlier simple cap);
a short wig (ibes) with headband and uraeus
(seshed); the horned atef (in the Amarna DISSEMINATION IN THE
period this crown is replaced by a tripled var- ANCIENT WORLD
iant, the hemhem ); the henu , a com-
bination of the Amun crown base that Egyptian crowns were popular not only in
appeared when the Theban god Amun rose to Egypt but throughout the ancient Near East.

From the Middle Kingdom onward, rulers and Dils, P. (1998) “La Couronne d’Arsinoé II
deities in the “Egyptianized” Levantine areas Philadelphe.” In W. Clarysse, A. Schoors, and
(e.g., BYBLOS) were shown wearing Egyptian (or H. Willems, eds., Egyptian religion, the last
Egyptianizing) crowns, including the White, thousand years: studies dedicated to the memory
of Jan Quaegebeur, vol. 2: 1299–1330. Leuven.
Double, and Atef crowns (Eder 1999). They
Eder, C. (1999) “Einfluss ägyptischer
also appear in Mesopotamia (e.g., Barnett
Königsikonographie in der Levante zu Anfang
1975, pls. I, III, CXXXIV) and even Persia. des 2. Jahrtausends v. Chr.” In R. Gundlach and
A relief at PASARGADAI (Gate R) shows (purport- W. Seipel, eds., Das frühe ägyptische Königtum:
edly) Cyrus the Great wearing a Hemhem Akten des 2. Symposiums zur ägyptischen
Crown (Kuhrt 2007: 91). In Nubia, Egypt- Königsideologie in Wien 24.–26.9.1997: 125–53.
ianizing crowns and headdresses are found Wiesbaden.
until the fifth century CE (Kormysheva 1992: Ertman, E. L. (1976) “The cap-crown of Nefertiti:
68). This proliferation of Egyptian royal para- its function and probable origin.” Journal of
phernalia attests to the important and domi- the American Research Center in Egypt 13: 63–6.
nant cultural role that Egypt played in the Goebs, K. (1995) “Untersuchungen zu Funktion und
Symbolgehalt des nms.” Zeitschrift für Ägyptische
ancient Near East, and to the functionality and
Sprache und Altertumskunde 122: 154–81.
effectiveness of its “divine king dogma,”
Goebs, K. (2001) “Crowns.” In D. B. Redford, ed.,
adopted by virtually all the peoples who con- The Oxford encyclopedia of ancient Egypt, vol. 1:
quered Egypt. Both Ptolemies and Roman 321–6. Oxford.
emperors continued to use Egyptian crowns in Goebs, K. (2008) Crowns in Egyptian funerary
their royal imagery in Egypt. literature: royalty, rebirth, and destruction. Oxford.
Johnson, S. B. (1990) The cobra goddess of ancient
SEE ALSO: Jewelry, Pharaonic Egypt; Kingship, Egypt: Predynastic, Early Dynastic, and Old
Pharaonic Egypt; Queens, Pharaonic Egypt; Kingdom periods. London.
Kormysheva, E. (1992) “The royal crowns of Kush:
Titulary, Pharaonic Egypt.
an extended review.” Beiträge zur Sudanforschung
5: 55–71.
REFERENCES AND SUGGESTED READINGS Kuhrt, A. (2007) The Persian Empire: a corpus of
sources from the Achaemenid period, vol. 1. London.
Abubakr, A. M. J. (1937) Untersuchungen über die Myśliwiec, K. (1985) “Quelques remarques sur les
altägyptischen Kronen. Glückstadt. couronnes à plumes de Thoutmosis III.” In
Aufrère, S. H. (1997) “La Couronne d’Isis-Sôthis, les P. Posener-Kriéger, ed., Mélanges Gamal Eddin
reines du Phare et la Lointaine.” Égypte, Mokhtar, vol. 2: 149–60. Cairo.
Afrique et Orient 6: 15–18. Roth, S. (2001) Die Königsmütter des Alten Ägypten
Barnett, R. D. (1975) A catalogue of the von der Frühzeit bis zum Ende der 12. Dynastie.
Nimrud ivories with other examples of ancient Wiesbaden.
Near Eastern ivories in the British Museum, Török, L. (1987) The royal crowns of Kush: a study
2nd ed. London. in Middle Nile Valley regalia and iconography in
Collier, S. A. (1996) “The crowns of Pharaoh: the 1st millennia BC and AD. Oxford.
their development and significance in ancient Troy, L. (1986) Patterns of queenship in ancient
Egyptian kingship.” PhD diss., University of Egyptian myth and history. Uppsala.
California. Vassilika, E. (1989) Ptolemaic Philae. Leuven.