Egyptian Headdress: History, Meaning & Facts

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  • 0:03 Headdresses of Egypt
  • 0:38 Symbols of Importance
  • 1:08 Types of Egyptian Headdresses
  • 1:45 Khat and Nemes Headdresses
  • 2:58 Archaeological Evidence
  • 3:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica M Lathrop

Jessica has a master's degree in history with a focus on ancient and classical civilizations.

Egyptian headdresses are a common sight in any mention of ancient Egypt - and even sometimes on Halloween! But what's their history? What did they mean to the Egyptians? Learn more in this lesson.

Headresses of Egypt

When you think about ancient Egyptian culture, you might picture the pyramids or the Sphinx, but perhaps just as ubiquitous are those fancy headdresses that the gods and pharaohs wore.

Headdresses, or crowns, are portrayed on statues, paintings, casket tops, and death masks during all the distinct phases of ancient Egyptian history. These headdresses would often be very elaborate, with gold and jewel accents, hieroglyphs, and pictures painted on them. But what did they mean, and what evidence do we have of them? Let's take a closer look.

Symbols of Importance

You could say the Egyptian headdress started with the gods. Ancient Egyptian gods were originally shown wearing headdresses to symbolize that they were the first mythical kings, even before creation. These crowns set them apart from the common people in pictures and statues.

The pharaohs of Egypt began wearing crowns during ceremonies, such as the ceremony to become king or queen, to symbolize their importance above the people and their closeness to the gods.

Types of Egyptian Headdresses

There were several types of crowns worn by the different regions of Egypt. Red crowns were used for pharaohs of Lower Egypt, white crowns were for pharaohs of Upper Egypt, and blue crowns were worn for the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, such as the tall blue crown we see often on statues of King Tut.

Some pharaohs would combine different crowns to be unique or show that some ceremonies were more important than others. Interestingly, the death god, Osiris, had his own crown, called the 'Atef Crown' or 'White Crown of Osiris.' No other god or pharaoh wore this crown, which was white and adorned on each side with feathers.

Khat and Nemes Headdresses

A commonly depicted headdress is the Khat, or cap crown, which was a single-colored cloth covering the entire hair portion of the head and tied in the back to form a tail at the base of the head. A gold or metal headband was used in conjunction with the Khat to hold the headdress in place and secure ornaments, such as the uraei, or mythical snakes, often worn by pharaohs.

When we picture an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, we often think of the headdresses called the Nemes, a royal blue striped cloth that covered the crown and hung down on both sides of the face to the shoulders. Nemes were headdresses that signified a pharaoh leaving his physical life on Earth and beginning his spiritual afterlife. The Nemes is the type of headdress we see on caskets and death masks, and is shown on many statues erected in honor of a pharaoh after his death.

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