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Research Article: Royal Crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt


One of the most common features in ancient Egyptian depictions of kings is the presence of the crown. The crown, originating in the predynastic history of Egypt and evolving in the Old Kingdom is used throughout Egyptian chronology as a symbol of the king. Divinity, unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, as well as many other themes are embodied in this symbol that is associated with representations of Egyptian Kings. The most common crowns, especially in the Old Kingdom, the red crown and the white crown, combine in the Old Kingdom to create the double crown of unified Egypt. Through analyzing the origins of the red crown of Lower Egypt and white crown of Upper Egypt, a greater understanding is available of the synthesis of the red and white crowns into the double crown. The double crown incorporates aspects of both of the individual crowns of Lower and Upper Egypt, while also having its own meanings and symbolism. The power and legitimacy conveyed by these symbols is used by pharaohs to justify their own reigns as well as the reigns of other pharaohs. This has a lasting impact on the understanding of authority, divinity and Egyptian culture based upon the pharaoh and representations of the pharaoh in specific contexts and associations.


In order to understand the changing culture and dynamics of civilization in ancient Egypt it is important to look at one of the cornerstones of Egyptian culture. One of the defining features of Egyptian culture, from the 1st dynasty to the end of dynastic culture is the pharaoh, the very embodiment of dynastic Egypt. The pharaoh embodies dynastic Egypt in a variety of ways throughout the chronology of ancient Egypt, but as the leader of Egyptian civilization and culture, the pharaoh had, at the very least, the power and authority of the Egyptian state, and at the most, the divine authority of a descendant of the gods. While the power, authority, and legitimacy of the pharaoh fluctuated throughout the duration of dynastic culture, the position of pharaoh nonetheless continued, more or less intact, for over 3000 years. In seeking to understand ancient Egyptian civilization then, it is necessary to understand the pharaoh as a lasting component and cornerstone of Egyptian culture. One way to understand the pharaoh is through examining depictions and representations of the pharaohs across dynastic chronology, and observing variances between depictions of kings. In the process of examining representations of kings, it becomes evident that one of the most common features in royal depictions are the “various royal headdresses used by the rulers of ancient Egypt for specific ceremonies or rituals” (Bunson, p. 90). While these royal vestments can serve to demonstrate the particular activity the pharaoh is engaging in, they can also represent the power and authority of a particular pharaoh, dependent on the headdress used, especially in specific contexts.

Kingship in ancient Egypt dates back to the beginnings of Egyptian civilization and the unification between Upper and Lower Egypt. One feature that contributes to our understanding of the changing dynamic of kingship, especially at the beginning of dynastic Egypt is the representation of the king in artwork such as the Narmer Palette. The example of the Narmer Palette contains a representation of Narmer wearing on one side the Red Crown of Lower Egypt and on the other side wearing the White crown of Upper Egypt (Savage, p. 108). The importance of this dual representation of the king and his kingship lies in the symbolism surrounding the two crowns he is depicted wearing. This symbolism is not unique to Narmer, and continues throughout the dynastic history of Egypt such that, “all subsequent kings attempted to maintain or, if necessary, re-create this unity, which was expressed most typically in the royal titulary and names, and a range of royal symbols” (Kuhrt, p. 125). In this way, depictions of the pharaoh, with various crowns, can have different meanings and contexts that help to provide a more thorough understanding of the role and position of individual pharaohs throughout dynastic chronology. According to Collier, it is evident that: “the evolution of royal headdresses reflects changes in the nature of kingship and that there is an association between particular crowns and specific aspects of kingship” (p. xii).

Red Crown

Figure 1. Red Crown of Upper Egypt on Naqada sherd.

The red crown of Lower Egypt is most often associated with rule of the Egyptian Delta in the dynastic period. Evidence suggests that even before the dynastic period this crown had some significance though. Within the delta there is evidence that has been “known for many years that the red crown was worn by rulers before the historic times, as nine, and probably twelve, such are figured on the fragmentary Palermo Stone” (Wainwright, p. 27). Besides the Palermo Stone, there is other evidence that even before the dynastic period, the red crown was not exclusive to the Egyptian delta, but was present as far south as Naqada. One pottery sherd, with a raised impression of the red crown was found in association with predynastic Naqada burials, “between Denderah and Thebes, and some four hundred miles south of Cairo” (Wainwright, p. 26). This suggests the possibility that “Nagada, the power seat of Set located north of Hierakonpolis, might have been regarded by the southerners as ‘Lower Egypt’ before the term was transferred to the Delta” (Hassan, p. 174).

The idea that the king of Sais, whom the predynastic red crown is associated with, suggests, according to Wainwright, that: “he [the king] had extended his sway as far as Nakadeh, which is unlikely; or that he had had the pot made to contain some present to the southern chief; or that the pot had been made in the south to contain such a present” (p. 27). Regardless of the true reason for finding the symbol of the red crown in a predynastic Naqada site, it nonetheless shows that interactions did occur between the predynastic kingdoms of Lower and Upper Egypt. Whether or not the symbol at this time represented the actual crown of the king of Lower Egypt, or as Wainwright suggests, “it is more probable that it is a cult sign” (p. 27), it still represents the presence of Lower Egyptian predynastic ideas in the community of Naqada, at the very least, and possibly Upper Egypt as well. If the red crown of predynastic times is “considered as one of these cult signs it would then represent, not the king of Sais, but its goddess, Neith, one of whose attributes the red crown regularly is all through the historic period” (Wainwright, p. 28). Other accounts attribute the red crown directly to Naqada, due to the presence of the Naqada sherd, as well as the color of the crown because, “the colour red was traditionally associated with Seth, the local god of Naqada” (Wilkinson, p. 163). Hassan also suggests that “Nagada, the power seat of Set located north of Hierakonpolis, might have been regarded by the southerners as ‘Lower Egypt’ before the term was transferred to the Delta” (p. 174). So in the dynastic period, the red crown represents not only the kinship of Lower Egypt, but a kingship that is associated and linked with divinity throughout its chronology, the divinity of the delta as well as Naqada.

White Crown

The white crown of Upper Egypt “is first attested later than the red crown, but is directly associated with the ruler somewhat earlier” (Wilkinson, p. 165). Some of the earliest representations of the white crown are seen in Nubia, at Qustul, where “early rulers had at least adopted some of the iconography of Upper Egyptian rulers (including the White Crown, the god Horus, and niched mud-brick architecture)” (Savage, p. 114). The white crown has been associated with Hierakonpolis, in Upper Egypt, because the “evidence of close contacts between the rulers of Qustul and their contemporaries at Hierakonpolis may support the theory that the white crown originated at the latter site” (Wilkinson, p. 165). The placement of the white crown as originating in Hierakonpolis is important, not only because of its place as a cultural center of Upper Egypt, but also, as Hassan (p. 162) suggests, because of its relationship to Horus, such that “if there is any truth to the unification conquest myth, it may reside in the ‘conquest’ of the Nagada region by the followers of Horus from Hierakonpolis” (p. 174).

The white crown, as associated with Horus, represents the divine connection of the pharaoh to Horus, as well as the kingship of Upper Egypt, especially with Upper Egypt centered at the Horus cult center of Hierakonpolis. Two of the most significant artifacts associating the white crown with the unification of Egypt are also from Hierakonpolis, both the Scorpion Macehead, as well as the Narmer Palette (Wilkinson, p. 166). Especially important is the way in which the white crown is depicted on the Narmer Palette, which according to Wilkinson, “indicates that the white crown was the superior of the two crowns, since the figure of the king wearing the white crown is significantly larger than the figure wearing the red crown. […] The white crown retained this superiority throughout Egyptian history” (p. 165).

This is also significant as Horus and Seth are the two gods associated with Egyptian kingship and the two lands of Egypt, which is evident, according to Hassan (p. 174), in the “adoption by Anedjib, one of the early Dynastic kings of the title ‘Two Lords’ (i.e., Horus and Seth) and by queens of ‘She who unites the Two Lords’”. Seth was “first recorded in Nagada, Set was worshiped in the Predynastic Periods […] as he was given Upper Egypt by Geb and then lost it to Horus” (Bunson, p. 366). This further emphasizes the relative importance of the white crown over the red crown in specific situations, where the pharaoh would seek to be associated with Horus. This is also represented in the king’s Horus name, where “changes in the formulation of the Horus name (a Seth-name and a Horus-and-Seth-name are also attested from the late Second Dynasty) must reflect, to some degree, the changing emphasis of Egyptian Kingship” (Wilkinson, p. 172). In this way the use of the white crown helps to represent military conquest of Hierakonpolis over the rest of Upper Egypt, especially Naqada and Seth, the conquest, whether military, economic or cultural over Lower Egypt, as well as divine connections to Horus.

Double Crown

Figure 2. Sketches of double crown, white crown, and red crown.

The Double Crown of ancient Egypt is a composite of the red crown of Lower Egypt and white crown of Upper Egypt. Even after the addition of the double crown to the wardrobe of possible vestments for kings, the red and white crown still “continued to be depicted individually as well as in their combined form throughout the Pharaonic period” (Collier, 16). This continued use of the individual crowns is used to represent the pharaoh in specific situations as being the ruler of Upper or Lower Egypt, or as being especially close to the god’s associated with these regions and crowns. In addition to depicting individual crowns, there are also two variant methods of depicting the double crown, likely representing a different focus and ideal for the pharaoh in that specific representation. “In one, the dsrt [the red crown] appears to enclose the hdt [the white crown], emphasizing the former crown. In the other, the hdt seems to be overlaid on the dsrt, causing the hdt portion of the shmty [double crown] to stand out” (Collier, 17). According to Collier (p. 18), representations where the double crown emphasizes the red crown of Lower Egypt over the white crown do not appear before the Sixth Dynasty, suggesting that a change in the importance of Lower Egypt occurs sometime around this period.

The change in practice is also visible on the Palermo Stone, where,”on the main fragment they wear the crown that, in historic times, had come to signify the kingship of Lower Egypt. On another, in the Cairo Museum, they wear the double crown” (Kemp, p. 92). So even in the 5th dynasty there is evidence that some importance was being placed on the red crown. Kemp also suggests that, “the noteworthy fact that on the Cairo fragment some of these little figures wear the double crown means also that the Egyptians themselves did not, at least in the 5th Dynasty, see Menes [possibly associated with Narmer] as the very first unifier.” This further represents the crown as a political tool, especially when used to suggest a stronger relation to the kingship of Lower Egypt, as well as the idea that unification wasn’t a sudden process, but a gradual change. By acknowledging some pharaohs with the double crown these pharaohs could be representative of the pharaohs the current king, at the time of the 5th Dynasty, would have sought to model his own kingship after. This practice would have legitimized certain kings over others in a historical perspective, but it is not unique to the old kingdom.

The Abydos kings list, as well as the Karnak kings list, “omits the rulers of the Intermediate Periods” (Kuhrt, p. 125), essentially derelegating them from the position of king. This after the fact legitimization of some kings and delegitimization of others allows pharaohs such as Sety I whose temple the Abydos kings list is found in, to create an image of their own kingship that is founded on a created history. This creation of history in turn allows the kings to justify their rule as part of the continuity of kings from the original unification of Egypt to their own kingship. This goal of building on the work of their predecessors is, according to Kuhrt, what “all subsequent kings attempted to maintain or, if necessary, re-create this unity, which was expressed most typically in the royal titualry and names, and a range of royal symbols” (p. 125).


The significance of the representation of the pharaoh, especially in regards to the choice of crown used as part of the representation has a lasting and complex interpretation. The three earliest pharaonic crowns, the red crown of Lower Egypt, the white crown of Upper Egypt and the double crown of a unified Egypt all have various different meanings, which are exposed in different contexts and situations. The presence or prominence of a specific crown can help to add meaning or shift the focus of a representation of the king towards an alternative interpretation.

The red crown, originating in Lower Egypt, whether at Sais, or at Naqada, is associated with the culture, religious and historical of these regions. Through Sais the red crown is associated with Neith, the patron god of Sais, which causes the king, when he is wearing the red crown to become associated with Sais, as well as Neith because “the curly protuberance at the front of the crown has been linked with the bee […], and also with the goddess Neith” (Wilkinson, p. 163). In addition, the red crown is also associated with Naqada, and the Seth cult located there, such that the red crown can also be used as an indicator of a relationship with Naqada, or Seth. This also creates a relationship between the gods Seth and Neith. As such the red crown is used for more than just indicating the power and authority of the king in Lower Egypt.

The white crown is similar to the red crown in that it represents the legitimacy of the pharaoh as the king of Upper Egypt. Its importance is in contrast to the red crown then, depending on which area the pharaoh wants to emphasize his kingship in. One example of this is explained by Davies (pp. 57-58, 63), that at Deir el-Bahri, where there are representations of Thutmose III as well as Hatshepsut, Thutmose III is seen wearing the red crown while Hatshepsut is seen in the same depiction wearing the white crown. Some authors have taken this to be a representation “of the subordination of Tuthmosis III to Hatshepsut” (p. 63), which Davies does not find evident, but could be possible with a more thorough archeological record. Alternatively the choice of crown could represent, as Davies suggests, that “as the architect of the three major Upper Egyptian temples included in this study, Hatshepsut seems, by rights, to bear the local crown” (p. 63). So even if the choice of the white crown over the red crown doesn’t always represent supremacy, as the Narmer palette might suggest, there are still other considerations to be taken into account, especially that of geographic significance as well as religious connections. The white crown is associated with Horus, through the Horus cult center at Hierakonpolis, which is important when the white crown is worn by itself, and even more so when it is worn with the red crown in the double crown.

The double crown may seem to be a mere physical composite of the red and white crown, representing the physical, geographical unification of Egypt, but even this relation has connotations. As noted earlier, the emphasis of the red crown or white crown in depictions of the double crown can change the shape of the crown, as well as the meaning of the representation. By focusing on one crown over the other the pharaoh emphasizes the divinity of that crown, as well as the region associated with the particular crown. In addition, representations of the crown where the pharaoh is wearing both types of double crown, facing himself are also evidence of the multipurpose uses of this depiction (Collier, p. 18-19). The double crown emphasizes a complementary relation between the red and white crown that builds upon the individual properties of these crowns and creates a synergy. This synergy is powerful and representative of the world the pharaoh wants to be part of, with specific relations and contexts. By using the crown as a type of symbol, the king can even legitimize or refuse to legitimize the rule of other kings, creating king lists that offer up these others as perpetuators of the unity of the double crown, or as having only had a single crown, or by refusing the pharaohs during the intermediate periods any crown and leaving them off the lists.

In this manner the crowns the kings of ancient Egypt are depicted in can represent more than mere kingship. They can represent geographical supremacy, religious connections, descent from divinity, protection of divinity, and myriad other meanings based upon context with other symbols. The use of the crown also helps to create a unified image and history of Egypt from the earliest Dynastic time throughout Pharaonic Egypt. Legitimacy, authority and power are all embodied in this symbol of kingship. The origin of these crowns in the old kingdom is only the beginning of their use though, as elements and other symbols are added onto the crowns, such as the uraeus or nemes headdress (Collier, p. 14), even more meanings and relations can come out of these depictions.


Bunson, M. (2002). Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York, NY: Facts on File.

Collier, S. A. (1996). The crowns of pharaoh: Their development and significance in ancient Egyptian kingship. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertaions and Theses.

Davies, V. (2004). Hatshepsut's Use of Tuthmosis III in Her Program of Legitimation. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, 41, 55-66.

Hassan, F. A. (1988) The Predynastic of Egypt. Journal of World Prehistory, 2(2), 135-185.

Kemp, B. J. (2006). Ancient Egypt: anatomy of a civilization. New York, NY: Routledge.

Kuhrt, A. (1995). The Ancient Near East, c. 3000-330 BC. New York, NY: Routledge.

Savage, S. H. (2001). Some Recent Trends in the Archaeology of Predynastic Egypt. Journal of Archaeological Research, 9(2), 101-155.

Wainwright, G. A. (1923). The Red Crown in Early Prehistoric Times. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 9(1), 26-33.

Wilkinson, T. A. H. (1999). Early Dynastic Egypt. New York, NY: Routledge.

Research Article Proposal

In depictions of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, one of the most common features is the presence of a headdress or crown on the pharaoh. The crown can have a variety of meanings and purposes based upon the context of the depiction. Possibly one of the earliest depictions of the crown being worn by a pharaoh is that on the Narmer Palette. The earliest crowns, the white and red crowns of upper and lower Egypt, respectively, are documented in the archeological record on many early dynastic kings as well as extending into the predynastic. The representations of the pharaoh as the ruler of that specific region of Egypt, and eventually of all Egypt is important because it provides us with a better understanding of the power of the king and state he embodies.

Other headdresses or crowns are also present in the archeological record of ancient Egypt. One example of this is the double crown which is only seen in depictions of the pharaohs after the unification of Egypt. The use of this crown continues into the New kingdom at least. The significance of this crown in representing a whole and united Egypt, under the rule of the pharaoh is obvious. In addition to the double crown used after the unification, there are also the blue crown and the nemes headdress, both of which are commonly seen in pharaoh depictions as well. The blue crown is most often seen in association with imagery of warfare. The oldest evidence of the blue crown dates to the New Kingdom, but even earlier there is evidence of the existence of the crown. The blue crown is also worn by the pharaoh when the pharaoh is depicted in the presence of the gods. The nemes headdress is another type of crown used in representations of the pharaoh, and is commonly used in a mortuary context especially.

These representations of the pharaoh are important because they are used throughout the history of ancient Egypt from the old kingdom until the new kingdom. Understanding the meaning of these crowns can help to understand the meaning of the depiction of the pharaoh as well as the standing of the pharaoh. I plan to look at the different types of crowns, from the white and red crowns of predynastic Egypt, into the double crown of the first dynasty. I also plan to look at the changes in crown wearing in the New Kingdom with the rise of the blue crown and what effects the presence of this additional crown has on the use of the other crowns in depictions of the pharaohs. In addition I will also look at the use of the crowns in depictions of deities, both in association with the pharaohs as well as represented alone and also in association with other gods. I plan to examine the contexts of the representations of the pharaohs in various crowns, especially after the addition of the blue crown to those used to represent the pharaohs, and I will use this to explain how the use of the crowns by histories and king lists can legitimize and delegitimize other pharaohs.


Wilkinson, T. A. H. (1999). Early Dynastic Egypt, Routledge.

Kemp, B. J. (2006). Ancient Egypt: anatomy of a civilization, Routledge.

Millet, N. B. (1990). The Narmer Macehead and Related Objects. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, 27, 53-59.

Hardwick, T. (2003) The Iconography of the Blue Crown in the New Kingdom. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 89, 117-141.

Archeological Site Report: Kom el-Hisn

Archeological research into Egyptian dynastic history is most often concerned with mortuary remains and temple sites. This research is essential to understanding the development of social, political and religious institutions in Egypt. Cemeteries can reveal social hierarchy based upon quantities of grave goods and treatment of remains. Grave good analysis can also lead to greater understandings of social relations between cultures as well as religious traditions within a particular region or culture. Temples, especially with writings or etchings of events can also provide an understanding of historical events and traditions.

Cemeteries and temples are both important in providing researchers with an understanding of the history of Egyptians society, but nonetheless, they are not the only resources available for research into Ancient Egyptian history. Just as important, but often less thoroughly utilized, settlement sites are able to provide us with insights into the daily lives of the people living at these sites. Settlements, especially when not destroyed by later occupations can provide a wealth of data on subsistence strategies, architectural practices, social structures, and the importance of religious traditions in the daily lives of individuals. Sites that contain cemeteries, temples and villages, such as Kom el-Hisn, are therefore especially valuable in that they can provide information about all aspects of life during the occupation of the site.


Kom el-Hisn is located on the edge of the western Nile Delta in Lower Egypt. According to Buck (1990), the site of the settlement, is “now found some 13 km to the west of the Rosetta branch of the Nile, and even closer to the desertic edge of the Nile Delta. The now defunct Canopic branch of the Nile may have flowed considerably closer to Kom el-Hisn in the past” (p. 5). Wenke (1999) also notes that the sea of the Mediterranean is presently 90km from Kom el-Hisn, but would have been significantly closer, perhaps within 50km in the past. In addition to its proximity to the Nile and the Mediterranean Sea, Kom el-Hisn is also “approximately midway between Cairo and Alexandria” (Cagle, 2001, p. 4). One of the reasons that Wenke et al. (1988) originally began excavations at the site was because “its location (near the desert/Delta margin and a branch of the Nile, and close to the Libyan frontier and the Mediterranean) are such that its composition probably reflects diverse sectors of early economic and socio-political systems” (p. 6).

The site of Kom el-Hisn is made up of “occupational deposits [that] are up to 3 meters thick and rest upon a topographic saddle composed of Pleistocene sands and gravels known in Arabic as gezira” (Cagle, 2001, p. 4). The location of the site on the gezira has helped to preserve deposits that might otherwise be under the water table. In particular, this site is important because according to Wenke et al. (1988), “Nile floods and millennia of settlement and cultivation have destroyed or obscured most of Egypt’s early settlements. […At Kom el-Hisn though,] Old Kingdom occupations are largely unobscured by later habitation” (p. 6).

In addition to its geographic location along the edge of the Nile and its preservation, Kom el-Hisn is also important for its evidence of settlement dating from the Old Kingdom. Settlement at Kom el-Hisn dates from the Old Kingdom until at least the late Middle Kingdom and possibly into the Third Intermediate Period. Research by Kirby, Orel & Smith (1998) suggests that evidence of domestic remains from the late New Kingdom could be related to the military defence network of Ramesses II.

Archeological Excavations

Some of the first research done on Kom el-Hisn, according to Coulson and Leonard (1979), dates back to 1885 when Griffith described the site and mapped it in order to show the location of the temple structure and the four statues of Ramses II. Research on the monuments at Kom el-Hisn also revealed the name of the site in ancient times as Imu, which was discovered when “Petrie visited the area in 1884 and noted an offering tablet to Sekhmet part of which read […] ‘the king gives an offering (to) the mistress of Imu, Sekhmet’” (Cagle, 2004, p. 2).

The next period of significant research to occur at Kom el-Hisn, according to Cagle (2004), was conducted by Edgar in the early 1900’s and was involved with dating the tomb of Khesu-wer. Edgar attempted to date the tomb to the 12th Dynasty, but was unable to do so conclusively.

The first real excavations at Kom el-Hisn were undertaken by “Abdel Hamada, Mustafa el-Amir, and Shafik Farid […who] excavated at Kom el-Hisn for seven seasons between 1943 and 1952” (Cagle, 2004, p. 2). The results of these excavations were according to Coulson and Leonard (1979), “dated to the New Kingdom which was a surprisingly cosmopolitan period at Kom el-Hisn to judge from the appearance there of at least one Palestinian pilgrim flask” (p. 167). The results of Hamda, el-Amir and Farid’s excavations are fragmentary as “they excavated over 1200 graves, but only published partial results of this work for the first four seasons. […] Of the published reports, only a few of the individual graves are described in any detail and this was not done systematically” (Cagle, 2004, p. 2).

The largest documented period of excavations and research at Kom el-Hisn occurred in the late 1970’s to mid 1980’s. In the late 1970’s Coulson and Leonard (1979) carried out surveys of the Naukratis Region of the Nile Delta. This research was focused on determining the significance of occupation throughout the region, which itself was bounded on the south by Kom el-Hisn. This survey, at least in the case of Kom el-Hisn was primarily involved with recording the previous research done in the region. As such it largely summarized the research of Griffith and Hamada, el-Amir and Farid, as well as attempting to verify the current state of monuments and tombs identified in earlier research. The excavations of Wenke et al. (1988) in 1984 and 1986 were the first into the parts of the site with evidence of Old Kingdom occupation. This research was focused on establishing the place of Kom el-Hisn in the larger context of Egyptian society and politics. These excavations revealed the importance of Kom el-Hisn within the larger socio-economic framework of the Egyptian Old Kingdom. Wenke et al. (1988) concluded that: “The absence of evidence of commodity production, the similarity of artifacts to those of the political centers at Giza, and the inscribed sealing may reflect more functional interdependence, and less self sufficiency, than is commonly attributed to Old Kingdom Egypt” (34). The most important conclusion of Wenke et al. (1988) was the need for further regional research to establish the true significance of the findings at Kom el-Hisn within a larger framework of Nile Delta settlements and especially the western Nile Delta.

Since the excavations of 1984-1986, the majority of research into Kom el-Hisn has been in defining its place in Old Kingdom socio-economic/political systems. The research of Moens & Wetterstrom (1988) was devoted to analyzing bioarcheological data, as well as textual evidence of cattle production in the Western Nile Delta. In doing so they proposed Kom el-Hisn as the “Estate of the Cattle” (p 172), described in other Egyptian records. The work of Buck (1990) focused on analyzing the structure of society at Kom el-Hisn, using the data from the excavations of Wenke et al. Buck also discussed periods of occupation at the site, based on radiocarbon dating, such that a chronology can be established from the data already collected. In 2001, Cagle continued using the data already collected to assess the extent of the site at Kom el-Hisn, especially in relation to the limited production found by Wenke et al. Cagle also concludes that Kom el-Hisn was indeed interdependent on the surrounding society for its support. In analyzing tool distribution and debitage from tool manufacturing, as well as bioarcheological data, Cagle (2001) is able to argue that “Rather than being an isolated island of state control, […] Kom el-Hisn formed something of a middle ground between complete integration with the local economy and total independence to it. […] This interpretation may shed light on who the residents actually were” (p. 314).

Some of the most recent excavations at Kom el-Hisn include those by Kirby, Orel & Smith (1998) which occurred in 1996 and helped to establish the definite presence of cultural remains from the late New Kingdom. This creates a need for further research and excavation into the nature of settlement at Kom el-Hisn in the New Kingdom time period. While the work of Kirby, Orel & Smith was only survey work, it still helps to demonstrate the true extent of settlement at the site. In 2001, Sakr began excavations around the Tomb of Khesu-wer, trying to determine the interconnectedness of Old Kingdom society based upon foundation deposits in the construction of tombs. According to Sakr these excavations “started in June to September 2001 and are still in progress” (2005, p. 350).


Kom el-Hisn is significant to Egyptian archeology because of the perspective it gives on Old Kingdom society, and especially the place of towns and settlements within the larger structure of this society. While the findings at Kom el-Hisn cannot be necessarily be generalized to any other particular site, they do help to present a more detailed insight into the potential roles of settlements in maintaining the Old Kingdom. Evidence uncovered by Hamada, el-Amir and Farid in their excavations of the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom graves associated with Kom el-Hisn, along with the more recent survey work by Kirby, Orel & Smith also demonstrates the need for further excavations at this site. As Kirby, Orel & Smith (1998) note, “The first [goal of further research] will be to clarify the relationship of the site with the Nile and artificial water systems. The second will be to search for evidence of a Ramesside fort at the site” (p. 42).

Previous excavations at Kom el-Hisn have all been devoted to further defining a specific time period of occupation, but perhaps the site would also benefit from a greater analysis of the whole settlement area to understand how settlement changed through time at this particular site. Wenke, et al. demonstrate the importance of the site in Old Kingdom times as a source of cattle and other animals for Giza, and Kirby, Orel & Smith attempt to show its significance in the New Kingdom as a part of Ramesses II’s defensive network. It would be interesting to see how the importance of the site fluxes throughout time, especially in the Middle Kingdom, which has had only minor research at Kom el-Hisn, usually when Old Kingdom or New Kingdom deposits extend further than anticipated. While the research already done at Kom el-Hisn has helped to create a new understanding of subsistence and settlement on the edge of the Nile Valley, further research is necessary at the site to determine its ongoing significance, as well as at other sites to determine their similarity or difference from Kom el-Hisn.


Buck, P. E. (1990). Structure and content of old kingdom archeological deposits in the western nile delta, egypt: A geoarcheological example from kom el-hisn. University of Washington). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, Retrieved from

Cagle, A. J. (2001). The spatial structure of kom el-hisn: An old kingdom town in the western nile delta, egypt. University of Washington). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, Retrieved from

Cagle, A. J. (2004). Human Burials at Kom el-Hisn [PDF document]. Retrieved from

Coulson, W. D. E. & Leonard, A. Jr. (Summer, 1979). A Preliminary Survey of the Naukratis Region in the Western Nile Delta, Journal of Field Archaeology, 6 (2), 151-168.

Kirby ,C. J., Orel, S. E., & Smith, S. T. (1998). Preliminary Report on the Survey of Kom el-Hisn. Preliminary Report on the Survey of Kom el-Hisn, 84, 23-43.

Moens, M.-F. & Wetterstrom, W. (July, 1988). The Agricultural Economy of an Old Kingdom Town in Egypt's West Delta: Insights from the Plant Remains, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 47 (3), 159-173.

Sakr, F. M. (2005). New Foundation Deposits of Kom el-Hisn. Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur, 33, 349-355.

Wenke, R. J., Buck, P. E., Hamroush, H. A., Kobusiewicz, M., Kroeper, K., & Redding, R. W. (1988). Kom el-Hisn: Excavation of an Old Kingdom Settlement in the Egyptian Delta. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, 25, 5-34.

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