Are you wondering about the meaning of this famous pharaonic headdress called "Nemes"? Would you like to find out what were the other ancient crowns of pharaohs?
You have come to the right place: as enthusiasts of ancient Egypt, we are here to answer these two questions!
The Nemes is undoubtedly the best known pharaonic headdress because it was the most represented in Egyptian art. Symbol of sovereignty and divinity, simple and complex at the same time, it is one of the inescapable attributes of ancient Egypt.
In this article, you will discover:
- The meaning and history of the Nemes
- The other crowns of pharaohs that can replace the Nemes in different situations
After this article, the attributes of the pharaohs, including the Nemes, will no longer hold any secrets for you.
Let's discover all this together!
1) The Nemes of pharaohs
A) Nemes' history
Symbol of ancient Egypt, the Nemes is a rectangular blue and gold striped fabric worn by the Egyptian pharaohs.
The form of the Nemes comes from the Egyptian lion's mane. Indeed, ancient Egyptians considered that if the lion is the king of all animals, the pharaoh is the king of all humans. So, the ruler of the Nile valley has the right to possess a lion-man too.
This crown also covers the entire nape 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 (as you can see in the image below). The existence of the Nemes dates back to the Third Dynasty, during the reign of the pharaoh Djoser. Indeed, the first trace of this garment can be found on the seated statue of Djoser, which rests inside his stepped pyramid.
One can see on these statues guarding the entrance of a tomb some attributes of the pharaohs: the "Nemes crown", the "pharaonic false beard" and the "Pschent crown".
B) Nemes' meaning
The use of Nemes is generally statuary and funerary. Indeed, it can be seen worn by the statues of the goddesses Isis and Nephthys in their role as mourners at the death of Osiris.
When a pharaoh was depicted in the form of a sphinx, he usually wore this headdress with the false beard, which confirmed that the Nemes resembled to a 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 crown was fixed the sacred uræus symbol which represented the deity of the king: the cobra goddess Wadjet.
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 Egyptian crowns
The Nemes is not the only crown the pharaoh has at his disposal.
There are others that were worn for special occasions and ceremonies.
A) The Pschent
The second most famous crown of the pharaohs is the Pschent crown. The Pschent is composed of 2 other complementary crowns:
- The Hedjet crown: a white crown which represented Upper Egypt (the south part of ancient Egypt). It has the shape of a sober cap that tapers from bottom to top. The white colour is not chosen by chance. According to ancient Egyptian beliefs, it designates the aura of protection granted to the pharaoh by the vulture goddess Nekhbet (the deity who embodies all the territories considered belonging to Upper Egypt).
- The Decheret crown: a red crown which represented Lower Egypt (the northern part of ancient Egypt). This crown represents the aura of protection of the cobra goddess Wadjet (the deity who embodies all the territories considered belonging to Lower Egypt).
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 the two Egypt's halves into one large and rich kingdom.
B) The Khepresh
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 a cobra on its front. It was made of soft leather and gold. Its meaning is very different from other crowns because it is a war crown.
Its first appearance took place in the second intermediate period of Egypt (1600 BC). The use of this crown was quite well thought out: in battle, the pharaoh always had to lead his soldiers 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.
Today, nevertheless, Egyptologists now think that the Khepresh was more a "ceremonial object". It was probably a crown symbolizing the triumph that the pharaohs wore on their return from their victorious military campaigns.
C) The Atef
Finally, a last crown is very present in ancient Egypt: the Atef. This crown is directly inherited from the perfect pharaoh Osiris, god of fertility and eternal resurrection.
This crown carries a special meaning since it takes the shape of the one worn by the god Osiris (regarded as the legendary first pharaoh to have reigned over ancient Egypt).
It consists of a "white mitre" (a kind of elongated cap like the Hedjet) with two vertical stripes in the shape of feathers on its sides. These two feathers are the same as those worn by the justice's goddess Maat in Egyptian mythology. Yet, these two feathers can also be connected to falcon feathers and thus to the god Horus.
The Atef is thus linked to many Egyptian deities and is the proof of the sovereignty of pharaohs.
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 ancient pharaohs. Due to their number, we will only present the most important of them.
A) The false beard
The pharaonic false beard is another accessory that dresses the head of the pharaoh. As its name indicates, it is a false beard whose wearing is reserved for the king of Egypt. The Egyptian false beard is rectangular, curved or integrated in masks but is always made of gold. It must always be worn when the pharaoh is present or presiding over a ceremony.
The false beard is an object of great value with a strong symbolic meaning that is therefore transmitted from generation to generation between pharaohs.
This pharaonic false beard is the symbol of the divine posture of the pharaoh and of his unequalled power in his kingdom. Indeed, just like the Atef, the false beard is considered inherited from the first of all pharaohs: Osiris.
The sarcophagus of Tutankhamun is one of the most richly decorated sarcophagi in ancient Egypt (on which we can observe a representation of the pharaonic false beard).
B) The Egyptian 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. 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. It also testifies to the pharaoh's ability to command by its form: a whip.
- The Was sceptre which represented the sceptre of Set (the god of desert) and Anubis (the god of rebirth) and symbolizes the link between these two gods and the pharaoh.
An Egyptian symbol!
You now know everything you need to know about the most famous headdress of the pharaohs: the Nemes. Its shape, composition 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.
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 necklaces, bracelets and rings related to their heritage.
Discover our rings by simply clicking on the image below!