Egyptian aristocrats and pharaohs, or emperors, wore a wide variety of headdresses. Egyptians often wore wigs to protect themselves from the heat of the climate, and they likely wore headdresses for the same reason. Many of the headdresses depicted in the hieroglyphics, or picture drawings, found in Egyptian tombs indicate that headdresses also had a ceremonial purpose. The pschent, worn by the pharaoh to symbolize his or her power over all of Egypt, was the most famous headdress, but there were many others.
One of the most common forms of headdress was the nemes headcloth. This stiff linen headdress covered the head and most often had flaps that hung down the sides and over the shoulders. The nemes headcloth was often full of bright colors. It put a frame around the face and is famous as the type of headdress worn by King Tutankhamen, who ruled Egypt in the fourteenth century B.C.E. and whose gold casket was discovered in 1922 and has been displayed around the world. Another common headdress was the simple headband. Made of linen or perhaps even of leather inlaid with gold, the main purpose of this headdress was to hold the wearer's wig in place.
Pharaohs are also depicted wearing a headdress known as the Blue Crown, or khepresh. This tall crown was likely made of stiff linen or leather and spread up and back from the forehead six to eight inches. It was blue, covered in small circular studs, and often had a carved uraeus, a sacred hooded cobra ornament, on the front and two long streamers hanging down the back. A famous crown was also worn by Queen Nefertiti, who ruled briefly around 1330 B.C.E. This blue, cone-shaped hat tapered down and covered her skull. It was banded with a decorative stripe and had a menacing uraeus at its front.
Many other forms of headdress have been found, most of which were associated with the various pharaohs who ruled Egypt over its long history. These headdresses often had ornaments with symbolic meanings, such as ostrich feathers to honor Osiris, the god of the underworld, or ram horns to honor Khnum, the god who created life.
Balkwill, Richard. Clothes and Crafts in Ancient Egypt. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens, 2000.
Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.
"Royal Crowns." Egyptology Online. (accessed on July 24, 2003).
Watson, Philip J. Costume of Ancient Egypt. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.
[ See also Volume 1, Ancient Egypt: Pschent ]