We know that the red "Deshret" crown was used by the Pharaohs of Lower Egypt (Or in occasions related only to Lower Egypt), and the white "Hedjet" crown was used by Pharaohs of Upper Egypt (Or in occasions related only to Upper Egypt).

After the unification of Egypt, both crowns were merged into one and that crown was called the Pschent.

My questions is: Why are some Pharaohs shown wearing either crowns even after the unification of Egypt?

Example: Thutmose III is depicted "Smiting his enemies" in a relief on the seventh pylon in Karnak (which is in Upper Egypt) wearing the Deshret crown of Lower Egypt. Thutmose III smiting his enemies - 7th pylon in Karnak

At the same time, still in Karnak on another wall not very far from the first wall, Thutmose III is shown wearing the Hedjet crown. Annals of Tuthmoses III at Karnak depicting standing before the offerings made to him after his foreign campaigns.

How come?

  • Just a thought... he is depicted wearing both crowns, but in seperate carvings. If these were made together, then maybe it was uneccesary to show both crowns in both pictures? @Semipaiscuba mentions Ahmose who expelled the Hyskos. Did he wear the "Upper" crown because the Hyskos occupied lower Egypt?
    – John Dee
    Aug 27, 2017 at 0:54
  • 1
    @JohnDee Maybe. And actually, the more I read about this subject and continue to search for an answer, the more I believe that there are no real explanations that anyone knows as to why Pharaohs used any type of crown (Including the battle (Blue) crown which was sometimes worn in ceremonies and normal occasions, and not during battles). Also, like Semipaiscuba said, there is a good chance that Pharaohs never really wore any of these crowns. None of them survive and they may have been just symbolic.
    – Kareem
    Aug 27, 2017 at 1:14

2 Answers 2


That is a really good question, and the answer is that nobody really knows for certain.

The whole concept of duality was deeply ingrained into ancient Egyptian culture. The "Black Land", kmt or "Khemet", (a reference to the fertile strip along the Nile), and the "Red Land", dšrt or "deshret", (referring to the deserts beyond that fertile strip) is one example. The two kingdoms, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, united under a single pharaoh is another.

As you say, the two crowns were associated with the two kingdoms. The Red, "Deshret", crown was associated with Lower Egypt, and the White, "Hedjet", crown with Upper Egypt.

There was also the "Double Crown", or "Sekhemti", which represented the unified kingdom, and incorporated both the Red Crown of Lower Egypt and the White crown of Upper Egypt.

(There were also other crowns with specific associations and meanings)

Pharaohs are portrayed wearing all three of these crowns right up to the Graeco-Roman period in Egypt, although as far as we know, there is generally no obvious reason to show why any Pharaoh was portrayed wearing a particular crown in an inscription. We were taught that the crowns continued in use in royal portraiture to emphasise the dual nature of the two lands.

(There are exceptions to this, however, as in the case of the Pharaoh Ahmose, who expelled the Hyksos from Lower Egypt, portrayed in the Hedjet Crown of Upper Egypt)

It is by no means certain that any of the crowns were actually worn by any pharaoh of the later periods. None of them survive (even in the (relatively) untouched burial of the young Tutankhamen). It may be they were traditional symbols, preserved in the iconography in inscriptions at temples, but never actually worn.


  • 1
    Alternative interpretation: The crown is never found in a tomb because it is always passed to the next Pharaoh.
    – Joshua
    Aug 27, 2017 at 1:45
  • @Joshua That's also a possibility. Like I said, nobody really knows for certain. Aug 27, 2017 at 1:47

The following excerpts from Toby Wilkinson's 'The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt' (2010) may be of (additional) interest here. Concerning the creation and origins of the crowns,

Archaeological evidence from the prehistoric period suggests that both crowns originated in Upper Egypt....Following the unification of the country, it made perfect sense to recast the 'northern' red crown as the symbol of northern Egypt...

Thus, the ancient Egyptians weren't shy about making up a tradition to suit the needs of propaganda / image. Wilkinson also states:

...he [the ruler] had a choice of three distinct headpieces, depending upon which aspect of his authority he wished to emphasise.

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