Would you like to discover how the false beard is an inseparable attribute of the pharaohs? Would you like to find out what other accessories these Egyptian kings wore?
We are here as enthusiasts of ancient Egypt to guide you and answer all these questions.
The Egyptian false beard is one of the most important attributes of pharaohs' attire, if not the most important. Made of stone or of precious metals, this beard is the link between the gods and the pharaoh.
In this article, you will discover:
- The meaning of the Egyptian false beard
- The other symbols of pharaohs often accompanying the false beard
After this article, the appearance and ornaments of pharaohs will no longer hold any secrets for you, both in their forms and meanings.
Let's discover together the mysteries of pharaonic outfits!
1) The beard of pharaohs
Like all rulers, regardless of their era, pharaohs needed to stand out from the common people. Among the many clothes they wore, the most fascinating seems to be the fake beard that replaced the pharaoh's beard.
A) An Egyptian "false beard" ...
In ancient Egypt, the Egyptian false beard was, as its name suggests, a false beard. It could only be worn by the pharaoh. As soon as a ceremony takes place, the pharaoh is obliged to wear it. The tradition of wearing it is one of the oldest customs of ancient Egypt.
The false beard does not really look like a beard, but rather like a goatee. It was worn on the chin and held by being attached to the ears. It was made of stone and metal and was kept preciously to be passed on from generation to generation.
The toupee beard was present on all the representations of the pharaohs whatever their form: sculpture, hieroglyphics, drawings ...
There are several types of hairpiece beards:
- The rectangular false beard was the most common. It was worn by the majority of pharaohs.
- The curved false beard was much less common in ancient Egypt. It was most often worn by the gods when they were represented under the forms of statues.
- The false beard integrated directly into a mask. One example is the mask of Tutankhamun, which possess a hairpiece beard directly embedded in it.
B) The meaning of the false beard
The false beard is one of the attributes that are common to pharaohs and gods. This essential accessory of their clothing marks the difference between the pharaoh and the common man.
As an example of the importance of false beard in the clothing worn by the pharaohs, in the hieroglyphic writing, the word "god" is represented by a man with a false beard.
The false beard comes from the story of the god Osiris.
In ancient Egypt, Osiris was considered as being the perfect example for pharaohs. He made Egypt prosper in such an extraordinary way that he acquired the status of god. Nevertheless, his success attracts the jealousy of his brother Set who kills him. At his death, Osiris finally becomes the ruler of the Underworld.
In this Underworld, he renders judgements where he appears to the eyes of the dead judged with a beard showing his great wisdom. Thus, in order to get closer to and bond with the perfect pharaoh Osiris, his pharaonic successors wear a metallic beard to imitate his appearance.
Finally, the false beard was not only worn by men. Indeed, female pharaohs like Hatshepsut (the first pharaoh of Egypt) wore it.
Pharaohs always had to be hairless when they exposed themselves in public. The postiche beard was thus the only way to wear a beard for the regents of Egypt.
False beards were worn during the pharaoh's life as well as in his death. Having no good or bad situations to wear the hairpiece beard, they were also present on the sarcophagi of the pharaohs. Indeed, when the latter died, they tended to be represented as the god Osiris himself to facilitate their journey in the world of souls.
2) The symbols of the pharaohs
Nevertheless, the false beard is not the only pharaonic attribute intended for the regents of ancient Egypt. We also find many crowns, sceptres and accessories which are the symbols of the pharaohs' legitimacy.
A) The Egyptian crowns
In ancient Egypt, there were many types of pharaonic crowns.
The Pschent crown, representing the ability of pharaohs to rule over Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt.
There were three main crowns in ancient Egypt:
- The Hedjet crown is the white crown that represented Upper Egypt (counterintuitively, "Upper" Egypt is located in the south of Egypt and not in the north!). It takes the form of a very simple tall hat that becomes thinner and thinner towards the top. The white symbolizes the protection granted to the pharaoh by the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt, Nekhbet.
- The Decheret crown is the red crown that represented Lower Egypt (the north part of Egypt). It is associated with the cobra goddess of Lower Egypt, Wadjet. Being difficult to describe, we let you see it on the picture above.
- The crown Pschent is the combination of the two previous crowns. Its name comes from the combination of two Egyptian words which together mean "the two mighty ones". This Egyptian crown is a symbol: it represents the union of Lower and Upper Egypt in one vast and powerful kingdom.
B) Ancient Egyptian symbols
The sceptres and the ankh cross are also among the best known attributes of the pharaohs. In ancient Egypt, they were both evidence of the power and divine legitimacy of the sovereign. Just like crowns, there are different sceptres with many meanings:
- The flagellum is the symbol of the sovereignty of southern Egypt. It resembles a whip and has the dual function of an agricultural tool and a symbol of sovereignty.
- The Heka is the symbol of power in the north of Egypt. It resembles a shepherd's staff and, as its shape indicates, it is assimilated to the role of the pharaoh in guiding his people in the same way as the shepherd guides his flock.
- The Was sceptre is the sceptre often carried by the gods Set and Anubis. Its shape is derived from a stick used to catch snakes. The Was sceptre is carried by the pharaoh during the military expeditions against the enemies of Egypt.
- The ankh cross (or "cross of life") sceptre is the symbol of immortality and eternity. Indeed, in Egyptian culture the ankh cross represents a gift given by the gods to the pharaoh that the latter will share with his people: the guarantee of an Afterlife for all those who have lived without doing too many bad deeds on earth.
The two sceptres, like the false beard, accompany the pharaoh in his passage to the Afterlife. One distinguishes well on the picture above the flagellum (towards the bottom of the picture above) and the Heka (at the top of the picture above).
An Egyptian symbol
As you will have understood, the false beard is one of the essential elements of any self-respecting pharaoh. Coming directly from the perfect pharaoh Osiris, it testifies to the link with the latter of the one who wears it.
Thanks to this fascinating reading, the history and meaning of this pharaonic accessory holds no more secrets for you. Moreover, you now know all the emblems of Egyptian power as well as the famous crowns of the pharaohs.
If you now wish to proudly display these prestigious symbols, we offer you a wide range of necklaces, bracelets and rings based on them!
You can click on the image below to discover them!