Hemhem crown

Majestic and imposing crown belonging to a deity of Ancient Egypt. Given its size, we may conclude it was part of a complete bronze statue. Statues of Egyptian gods of such a large size, however, are not frequent and are usually carved from wood and their attributes are incorporated in bronze.

This piece is a ritual crown called the Hemhem, a variant on the classic crown of Osiris, the Atef (made up of the white Crown or Hedjet of Upper Egypt, which had ostrich feathers on each side and sometimes a sun disk) but multiplied by three. This triple crown sits on corkscrew sheep horns and with a uraeus on each side, each topped by sun disks. On this example, each Atef also has a sun disk in the lower area. Most probably there were other sun disks on the top of the three elements of the crown as well.

A lot of detail can be seen on the crown. The grooves have deliberately been carved with enough depth to allow carved stones of different colours to be inset: limestone for white, lapis lazuli for blue, and jasper or cornelian for red, to give three examples. These complemented the crown and gave to it colour and symbolism. The sun disks may have been inset with gold or alabaster with yellow veining. Some elements of these are still present in this example.

The name of the crown means “a shout” or “scream” or “war cry”. It is the transliteration of hmhm.tj. “The Roarer” was the epithet of gods Seth and Apophis. In iconography, it appears in the Amarna Period but was most used in the Ptolemaic Period. It continued to be used in the Roman epoch and can be seen on some of the coins of that time. It symbolises the triumph of light or of life over the realm of darkness. Depending on the context, the horn was also a solar symbol (referring to the god Amun), a symbol of the creator of life (for Khnum) or a lunar symbol (in the case of the deity Iah).

It is a crown for divinities, mainly worn by the child god Harpocrates, and sometimes used by deceased pharaohs as a symbol of rebirth.

The technique of lost wax casting is a sculptural procedure using a mould made from a prototype of the piece to be worked, and this prototype is usually made from beeswax. This is covered with a thick layer of soft material, usually clay, which then solidifies. Once this has hardened it is put in a kiln where the wax inside melts and leaks out from expressly made holes in the clay. In its place molten metal is injected and this takes on the exact form of the mould. To remove the final piece the mould must be removed.


- BIANCHI R. S., ZIEGLER Ch. Les Bronzes égyptiens - Fondation Gandur pour l’Art. Berne. 2014.
- CAUVILLE, S. Offerings to the Gods in Egyptian Temples. Louvain. 2012.
- WILKINSON, R.H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. London. 2003.

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