Egyptian Symbols: Nemes

The Nemes is another symbol of ancient Egyptian regalia. It is a striped rectangular cloth of blue and gold worn by the pharaohs. The cloth usually covers the whole crown, the nape and sometimes extends to the back. It also has two huge flaps that cover both ears and another two that hangs in front of both shoulders. If statues were to be examined, the nemes is typically worn together with the double crown or pschent and the uraeus as evidenced by the statue of Rameses II in Abu Simbel.

Existence of the nemes dates as far back the Third Dynasty during the reign of Zoser as seen in the seated statue of Netjerikhet Djoser from his serdab in the Step Pyramid complex. It was used in combination with a wig. By the Fourth Dynasty, it became a royal headdress with or without the pleating, and often with the fine accordion pleating known the lappets or folds. It was also bound tightly above the brows and tied at the back beneath the queue (appeared during Middle Kingdom). By this time, the nemes completely covered the original wig. The nemes is usually made sturdy by a band of hard material or leather located between the forehead and the nemes itself to prevent damage to the cloth by sweat or chafing the brow.

When the pharaoh was in the form of the sphinx, he usually wears this headdress with the false beard suggesting that it resembled that of the lion’s mane. It may also be seen when he is represented by a falcon.

The use of the nemes is usually statuary and funerary as a representation of the Royal Ka. In fact, it can be seen worn by queen or the goddess Isis and Nephthys while performing their roles as mourners. It also very prominent as it was discovered during the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen.

It is also associated with the combination deity of Ra-Khepri during sunrise. It also became linked with Horus when he bestowed it upon his father, Osiris, and led to his rebirth.