3. Making the Nemes Crown – Cloth or Gold!

In going through the motions of creating two Nemes crowns, the idea that the crown worn by Tutankhamun was probably the one he was buried with solidified in my mind. More and more I rejected the idea that it was made out of linen attached to a golden tiara. There were several problems to contend with that required metal weights and supports to eliminate. Something cloth, needle and thread alone couldn’t eliminate. With the amount of metal needed to get the look right, it seemed easier to recreate the look  out of gold, faience, electrum and ornamental stones – just as it was found attached to the death mask by Howard Carter. With this blogpost I will go through each major challenge I faced in recreating the cloth crown and the logic for my conclusion against it.

My First Attempt

Question 1: What does the cloth represent – hair or a pyramid?

I began with the accepted wisdom that the Nemes crown was made out of linen. Because gold thread was not the technology of the time, but dying was, I assumed that the linen cloth was woven with dyed thread and alternated with undyed linen to give it stripes. But what did the stripes represent? When a prince/king of Egypt is described he is said to have hair of lapis lazuli, a brittle, electic blue stone. That would indicate that the headpiece was representative of hair the colour of this highly prized stone.The gold could represent any colour. But what of its shape?

The Nemes crown flays out at the temples in a subtle pyramid form. Or so I imagined with my preconceived notions of what I thought I was seeing. The term adopted by later kings of Egypt, Pharoah, described themselves as the Great House. It seemed fitting that the look of the crown would reflect a pyramid shape. To this end I created a pattern for my faux-linen which allowed for the lapets to fall on the pharoah’s shoulders but the bulk of the cloth to be pulled loosely into a ponytail at the back.

The sewn panels would then dress a form, as in a millinery style form. I would attach the uraeus to the form and so would give the snake and vulture stability. Here I moved away from the logical circlet of gold with animals rivetted on as is seen on the death mask crown. This was a decision born of necessity – expense, time and weight. I knew what I was going to use for the form but did the Ancient Egyptians use one?

Question 2: Bald pate or bowl-like form?

Did the Ancients shave their heads and place their crown atop it – no form  required? Or did the nemes crown sit over a stiff papyrus form giving it its distinctive shape?

Shabti of Tutankhamen

Photo credit: Tjflex2 via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Having a hard time finding the cloth that I wanted I resorted to using two old aprons – ravaged by use. I didn’t line the cloth and so I encountered another issue …

To be continued.

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