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The Mystery of the Crown

Sometimes we don’t notice the most interesting of details, even when we’re staring, or have been staring, at them for the longest time. Have you ever noticed that Pharaoh’s have never been depicted with their hair? Not in a single statue, sculpture or painting. Actually, if you think about it a little more, you’ll realize that they are always portrayed with a special crown or headdress, each of which served a purpose, such as the Chepresj crown worn in times of war and the Nemes crown worn at death indicating the end of the Pharaoh’s earthly affairs. The crown you are most probably familiar with is the latter, the blue-striped Nemes crown worn by King Tutankhamun.

Now you might be inclined to argue that Pharaoh’s are kings, and kings wear crowns, so what’s the big deal? This is in fact a valid consideration since these crowns were indeed a symbol of divinity, a differentiator between man and Pharaoh. But the reason this ‘mystery’ is a mystery at all lies in the fact that not a single crown has ever been recovered from any burial chamber, including those of the Pharaoh’s that no looter could have possibly accessed before being unearthed. In the entirety of its awe-inspiring history, the way we have come to imagine the rulers of these ancient lands actually seems to be more metaphorical than reality.

The ancient Egyptians had strong hygienic and medical practices, and so hair left unchecked was considered both unruly and a faux pas, especially when considering that hair attracted mites and lice who were tiny harbingers of disease. For example, boys had their heads shaved constantly until their teens and were only allowed to keep a single braid.

Logically it might seem clear why we’ve never seen the hair of Ancient Egypt’s royalty, but upon closer inspection, it’s not clear how these kings and queens actually appeared to the public and presented themselves in everyday life, or why these heavily depicted crowns are nowhere to be found; another Pharaonic mystery.