The Symbolism Behind the Double Crown of Egypt

Pschent Combines White and Red Crowns for Upper and Lower Egypt

Low Angle View Of Statue Against Blue Sky

Viplove Jain / EyeEm / Getty Images

Ancient Egyptian pharaohs are usually depicted wearing a crown or a head-cloth. The most important of these was the double crown, which symbolizes the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt and was worn by pharaohs starting with the First Dynasty around the year 3000 BCE. Its ancient Egyptian name is the pschent.

The double crown was an amalgamation of the white crown (Ancient Egyptian name 'hedjet') of Upper Egypt and the red crown (Ancient Egyptian name 'deshret') of Lower Egypt. Another name for it is shmty, meaning "the two powerful ones," or sekhemti.

The crowns are seen only in artwork and no specimen of one has been preserved and discovered. In addition to the pharaohs, the gods Horus and Atum are depicted wearing the double crown. These are gods that are closely allied with the pharaohs.

Symbols of the Double Crown

The combination of the two crowns into one represented the rule of the pharaoh over his united kingdom. The red deshret of Lower Egypt is the outer portion of the crown with cutouts around the ears. It has a curled projection in front that represents the proboscis of a honeybee, and a spire in the back and an extension down the back of the neck. The name deshret is also applied to the honeybee. The red color represents the fertile land of the Nile delta. It was believed to have been giving by Get to Horus, and the pharaohs were the successors of Horus.

The white crown is the interior crown, which was more conical or bowling pin shaped, with cutouts for the ears. It may have been assimilated from the Nubian rulers before being worn by rulers of Upper Egypt.

Animal representations were fastened to the front of the crowns, with a cobra in attack position for Lower Egyptian goddess Wadjet and a vulture head for the goddess Nekhbet of Upper Egypt.

It isn't known what the crowns were made of, they could have been made of cloth, leather, reeds, or even metal. Because no crowns have been found in burial tombs, even in those that were undisturbed, some historians speculate they were passed from pharaoh to Pharaoh.

History of the Double Crown of Egypt

Upper and Lower Egypt were united around the year 3150 BCE with some historians naming Menes as the first pharaoh and crediting him for inventing the pschent. But the double crown was first seen on a Horus of the pharaoh Djet of the First Dynasty, around 2980 BCE.

The double crown is found in the Pyramid Texts. Nearly every pharaoh from 2700 through 750 BCE was depicted wearing the pschent in hieroglyphs preserved in tombs. The Rosetta Stone and the king list on the Palermo stone are other sources showing the double crown associated with pharaohs. Statues of Senusret II and Amenhotep III are among many showing the double crown.

The Ptolemy rulers wore the double crown when they were in Egypt but when they left the country they wore a diadem instead.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Boddy-Evans, Alistair. "The Symbolism Behind the Double Crown of Egypt." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Boddy-Evans, Alistair. (2020, August 27). The Symbolism Behind the Double Crown of Egypt. Retrieved from Boddy-Evans, Alistair. "The Symbolism Behind the Double Crown of Egypt." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 21, 2023).