The single most important piece of headwear in all of Egyptian history was the pschent, the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. Historians believe that Upper Egypt (surrounding the upper Nile River in the south of present-day Egypt and in Sudan) and Lower Egypt (most of present-day Egypt) were united in about 3100 b.c.e. by King Menes. The rulers of Upper and Lower Egypt each wore a different type of crown. The White Crown of Upper Egypt, known as the hedjet, was a white helmet that was shaped much like half a football with a stretched out, rounded end. It also had a coiled uraeus, or sacred hooded cobra, just above the forehead. The Red Crown of Lower Egypt, known as the deshret, was a round, flat-topped hat that extended down the back of the neck and had a tall section that projected upward from the back side. From the base of the projection a thin reed curled up and forward, ending in a spiral. When King Menes united the two Egypts, he combined the hat into the pschent, or Double Crown. The pschent had as its base the Red Crown, which completely covered the wearer's hair. The White Crown emerged out of the top of the Red Crown.
From the time of King Menes on, nearly every pharaoh from the Old Kingdom (c. 2700-c. 2000 b.c.e.), Middle Kingdom (c. 2000-c. 1500 b.c.e.), and New Kingdom (c. 1500-c. 750 b.c.e.) is depicted wearing the pschent in hieroglyphs, pictures of Egyptian life that are preserved in tombs. The pschent symbolized the power of the pharaohs who ruled over one of the greatest empires of the ancient world.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
"Royal Crowns." Egyptology Online. http://www.egyptologyonline.com /pharaoh's_crowns.htm (accessed on July 24, 2003).
Watson, Philip J. Costume of Ancient Egypt. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.
[See also Volume 1, Ancient Egypt: Unraveling the Mystery of Hieroglyphs box on p. 18]
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