Sunday, August 24, 2014

Museum Pieces - A Royal Diadem

Photocredit: RMO Leiden
A Royal Diadem

This unique silver diadem was found in 1827 on the head of a mummy. Possibly it belonged to Intef V, a pharaoh of the 17th dynasty, but this is not certain. 
The knot consists of two inlaid lotus flowers. The forehead is adorned with a golden uraeus. This confirms that we are dealing here with a royal diadem. Wearing this protective symbol was in fact a privilege of the Pharaohs. 

Thebes; ca 1647 BC (17th Dynasty)

AO 11a-2

Silver, Gold, Glass and Faience

18,5 x 1,8 x 18 cm

Circlets were a common feature in Egyptian dress, worn by both men and women, regardless of class and at every period. In origin their purpose was purely utilitarian, a device to confine the hair and prevent it from falling over the eyes. A simple band of rope or fabric tied in a knot at the back of the head gave all the protection necessary. Scenes carved on the walls of Old Kingdom tombs depict boatmen holding long staves in their hands and wearing such circlets while engaged in mock combat. The first step in the process of development from the simple to the ornamental was certainly taken, albeit unconsciously, when flowers, usually the blue lotus and its buds, were inserted between the band and the head. Besides being ornamental, the insertion of flowers, and particularly the blue lotus, surrounded the wearer with a fragrant and refreshing aroma, though doubtless of very limited duration in a hot climate. Banqueting scenes regularly show the female participants, whether guests, attendants, or musicians, wearing floral circlets on the crowns of their wigs, sometimes with a fresh supply in reserve placed in a dish nearby. Even in this developed form the circlet still fulfilled its original function of keeping the hair, or the wig, in position. Once the circlet had assumed an ornamental character, its reproduction in more costly and permanent materials as an object of adornment was a natural consequence.


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