The Two Crowns of Egypt

In many, if not all cultures, the leaders were given certain items to separate them from the rest of the people. Of course after a while, when it became necessary in a more complex society, other governmental officials were also be singled out in a similar manner. The way to do this was by generally wearing a certain item to demonstrate the leader’s superiority over the rest of the people. In most cases this item was the crown, an elaborate, and usually heavy and uncomfortable, headwear. In Egypt, the situation was no different, both Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt the leaders had a crown to distinguish them from the rest of the ‘ordinary’ people, and these were known as the White Crown of Upper Egypt and the Red Crown of Lower Egypt.

The White Crown of Upper Egypt aka Hedjet

The Red Crown of Lower Egypt aka Deshret

It is unknown exactly when leaders of Upper and Lower Egypt began to wear these items, but it is assumed that these crowns came into the leaders’ wardrobe around 3500 B.C. It is also unknown what the material was used to make these crowns, some think that the White Crown was made of cloth whilst the Red Crown was made from a type of metal. Of course in my opinion it is possible that in 3200 B.C. they were made with one material and in 1200 B.C. they were made with a completely different material. Even more interesting is that none of these crowns were actually found in archaeological digs. Is is possible that after a while these crowns were only used on the famous wall paintings as symbols of pharaohship and were no longer real items that were worn by the pharaohs? Though this is unlikely, for human cultures love to hold on to the past and use the ‘same’ items as their ancestors did in a way to prove that they are their rightful successors…

The first time we see the two crowns in one place is on the Narmer Palette (yes, yes, I always go back to the Narmer Palette, but it is such a vital part of Egyptian history that it cannot be ignored). On the Narmer Palette on the one side Narmer is wearing the Red Crown, on the other side he is wearing the White Crown. Of course the meaning here is very clear, one does not have to spent three years learning art and Egyptology to understand that Narmer sees himself as the leader/king of both geographical units.

Of course, after the unification of the two Egypts, it became very common to see the pharaoh wearing what is known as the Double Crown. This crown was simply the White Crown inserted into the Red Crown (I always found that very neat, almost as though the designers of the White and Red Crowns had prior knowledge of what was to come and decided to make the new leader’s life easier to unite the two crowns…)

The Double Crown of Egypt aka Pschent


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