Do you want to understand what Nemes is all about? Are you wondering about the meaning of this famous Pharaonic headdress? Or would you like to find out what other attributes the pharaohs wore at the same time as the Nemes?
We are here as enthusiasts of ancient Egypt and the civilization of the name to provide you with as many answers as possible.
The Nemes is undoubtedly the best known Pharaonic headdress because it is the most represented. Symbol of sovereignty and divinity, simple and at the same time complex, it is one of the inseparable attributes of the pharaohs.
In this article, you will discover:
- The composition and meaning of the Nemes
- The other crowns that can replace the Nemes
- Accessories for the Nemes
After this article, the attributes of the pharaohs, including the famous Nemes, most emblematic of their headdresses, will no longer hold any secrets for you.
Let's discover all this together!
1) The Nemes
A) The history and composition of Nemes
The Nemes is a symbol of the ancient Egyptian insignia. It is a rectangular blue and gold striped fabric worn by the pharaohs. The cloth usually covers the entire crown worn by the pharaoh, the nape of the neck and sometimes extends to the back. It also has two pairs of large flaps: one that covers both ears and the other that hangs over both shoulders. To be worn correctly, the fabric of the Nemes was therefore quite rigid.
As many statues show, the Nemes is usually worn with the double Pschent crown. The existence of the Nemes dates back to the Third Dynasty, during the reign of Djoser. Indeed, the first trace of this garment can be found on the seated statue of Netjerikhet Djoser, who rests inside his stepped pyramid. It was then used in combination with a wig.
One can see on these statues guarding the entrance of a tomb some of the attributes of the pharaohs: Nemes, false beard and Pschent.
In the fourth dynasty, it became a royal headdress with or without folds but most often with the fine accordion folds known as lappets. It was also tied above the eyebrows and tied at the back during the Middle Kingdom. At that time, the Nemes completely covered the pharaoh's original wig. The Nemes is usually made strong by a strip of hard cloth or leather between the forehead and the Nemes itself to avoid damaging the fabric through sweat or rubbing of the forehead, thus considerably increasing its lifespan.
B) The meaning of Nemes
The use of Nemes is generally statuary and funerary. Indeed, it can be seen worn by the goddesses Isis and Nephthys in their role as mourners at the death of Osiris. Its discovery during the opening of Tutankhamun's tomb testifies to the great importance of this headdress, as it was used by the greatest of the pharaohs.
It is also associated with the combined deity of Ra-Khepri of the sunrise. It was also associated with Horus when he offered it to his father, Osiris, which led to his rebirth. When the pharaoh was depicted in the form of a sphinx, he usually wore this headdress with the false beard (false beard), which suggested that it resembled that of the lion's mane. The Nemes is also represented when the pharaoh is represented by a falcon.
The Nemes is the headdress most represented by the Egyptian vestiges, both to honour the pharaohs and the pharaohesses.
On the front of this band was fixed the sacred uræus cobra which represented the deity of the king. On each side, the linen was cut into rounded cones and starched into rigid straps which hung forward on the shoulders. The rest of the cloth was pulled towards the back of the neck, simulating the tail of the lion totem of sovereignty. Surviving versions of the fabric include white with stripes of a single colour, sometimes plain white, or a weave of gold threads with goffrant. One of the most famous representations of the Nemes is the golden mummy mask of Tutankhamun, which has blue stripes made of inlaid lapis lazuli.
2) The other crowns
Nevertheless, the Nemes is not the only crown the pharaoh has at his disposal. There are many others that were worn for occasions and ceremonies as important as those requiring the wearing of the Nemes.
A) The crown Pschent
The second most famous and important crown of the pharaohs is the Pschent crown. But we shall see that, like the Nemes, its composition and meaning is much more complex than its appearance suggests. First of all it is composed of 2 other crowns:
- The Hedjet crown is a white crown which originates from Upper Egypt, i.e. the south of ancient Egypt. It has the shape of a sober and elegant cap that tapers from bottom to top. The white colour is not chosen by chance, it designates the aura of protection granted directly to the pharaoh by the vulture goddess Nekhbet.
- The Decheret Crown is red. It comes from Lower Egypt, i.e. Northern Egypt. Its shape is more complex than the Hedjet crown, and being difficult to describe, we let you admire it on the attached picture below. It is associated with the god Horus.
The union of these two crowns then forms the Pschent crown. The combination of these two crowns is highly symbolic as it testifies to the unification of all ancient Egypt into one great and rich kingdom.
B) The Khepresh crown
The Khepresh is another crown emblematic of the age of the pharaohs. It is a blue headdress studded with white or yellow dots and decorated with various gildings, including a cobra on the front. It was made of soft leather and gold. Its meaning is very different from other crowns because it is a warrior crown.
Its first appearance took place in the second intermediate period and was long considered a war helmet. Indeed, the pharaoh had to lead his soldiers into battle, mostly on his war chariot. Thus, he needed an element that would distinguish him from the other men on the battlefield.
Ramses II is well known for the many wars he fought, so the Khepresh is one of the crowns he wore the most.
Nevertheless, great Egyptologists now think that it was more a ceremonial object. It was probably a crown symbolising the triumph that the pharaohs wore on their return from their victorious military campaigns.
C) The Atef
Finally, another crown is also very present in ancient Egypt: the Atef. This crown is directly inherited from the perfect pharaoh Osiris and the god Heryshef, god of water and fertility.
This crown carries a special meaning since it takes the shape of the one worn by the god Osiris. This crown therefore represents a great deal for the spiritual legitimacy of the ruler of Egypt since it is that of the god considered to be the legendary first pharaoh to have reigned over ancient Egypt.
It consists of a "white mitre" (a kind of elongated cap) with two vertical stripes in the shape of feathers on the sides. These two feathers are the same as those worn by the goddess Maat. But these two feathers can also be connected to falcon feathers and thus to the god Horus. Thus, the Atef is linked to many Egyptian deities, and one thing is certain, it represents truth, justice and is proof of the sovereignty of the pharaoh.
3) The other attributes of the pharaohs
Apart from the crowns and apart from the Nemes, there are also many other attributes that testify to the power of the pharaohs. Due to their number, we will only present a few of them that accompany the mythical Nemes.
A) False beards
The false beard is another accessory that dresses the head of the pharaoh. As its name indicates it is a false beard which is reserved for the pharaoh. It is rectangular, curved or integrated in masks but it is always metallic. It must always be worn when the pharaoh is present or presiding over a ceremony.
It is an object of great value and with a strong symbolic value that is therefore transmitted from generation to generation. This false beard is the symbol of the divine posture of the pharaoh and of his unequalled power in his kingdom. Just like the Atef (just above, remember!) it too is inherited from the pharaoh who became a god: Osiris.
The sarcophagus of Tutankhamun is one of the most richly decorated sarcophagi in ancient Egypt. Look carefully and you will find many pharaonic attributes on it!
B) The sceptres
Sceptres are also important emblems of power. Again, there are many of them, but the most well known are the following:
- The Heka is the sceptre that represents power in Lower Egypt, that is to say in the North of Egypt. It is a shortened shepherd's staff, recalling the role of the pharaoh in guiding his people.
- The Flagellum, on the contrary, is the sceptre of power in Upper Egypt, the south of Egypt. It testifies to the pharaoh's ability to command by its form: a whip.
- The Was sceptre is certainly the most symbolic sceptre. It is directly affiliated to Set and Anubis and symbolises strength and power.
The attributes of the pharaohs are waiting for you!
You now know everything you need to know about the most famous headdress of the pharaohs: the Nemes. Its shape, composition, the way it is worn and its meaning are no longer a mystery to you. In addition, you have also been able to discover the other attributes of the pharaohs that go hand in hand with the Nemes and are worn with it to complete its important role.
You have become an expert on Egyptian headdresses and other pharaonic attributes! But has that been enough to satisfy you? If the history of the pharaohs and their civilization interests you as much as we do, we offer a wide range of T-shirts, necklaces, bracelets and rings related to their heritage.
Discover our rings by clicking on the image below!