Deshret, the Red Crown of Lower Egypt
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Deshret, Red Crown
(crown as
in hieroglyphs

Deshret, from ancient Egyptian, was the formal name for the Red Crown of Lower Egypt and for the desert Red Land on either side of Kemet (Black Land), the fertile Nile river basin. When combined with the Hedjet (White Crown) of Upper Egypt, it forms the Pschent (Double Crown), in ancient Egyptian called the sekhemti.

The Red Crown in Egyptian language hieroglyphs eventually was used as the vertical letter "n" . The original "n" hieroglyph from the Predynastic Period, and the Old Kingdom was the sign depicting ripples of water.


In mythology, the earth deity Geb, original ruler of Egypt, invested Horus with the rule over Lower Egypt.[1] The Egyptian pharaohs, who saw themselves as successors of Horus, wore it to symbolize their authority over Lower Egypt.[2]
Other deities wore the deshret too, or were identified with it, such as the protective serpent goddess Wadjet and the creator-goddess of Sais, Neith, who often is shown wearing the Red Crown.[3]

The Red Crown would later be combined with the White Crown of Upper Egypt to form the Double Crown, symbolizing the rule over the whole country, "The Two Lands" as the Egyptians expressed it.[4]

As concerns deshret, the Red Land which comprised the deserts and foreign lands surrounding Egypt, Seth was its lord.[5] It was considered a region of chaos, without law and full of dangers.

Records of the Red Crown

None of the red crowns have survived, and it is unknown how it was constructed and what materials were used. Copper, reeds, cloth, and leather have been suggested, but this is purely speculative.

The Red Crown frequently is mentioned in texts and depicted in reliefs and statues. An early example is the depiction of the victorious pharaoh wearing the deshret on the Narmer Palette. A label from the reign of Djer records a royal visit to the shrine of the Deshret which may have been located at Buto in the Nile delta.[6]

The fact that no crown has ever been found buried with any of the pharaohs, even in relatively intact tombs, might suggest that it was passed from one regent to the next, much as in present day monarchies.


1 Red Crown, Deshret
2 also, vertical
in hieroglyphs

The ancient Egyptian Red Crown, the Deshret crown, is one of the oldest Egyptian hieroglyphs. As an iconographic element, it is used on the famous Narmer Palette of Pharaoh Narmer as the "Red Crown of the Delta", the Delta being Lower Egypt.

Later use of the Red Crown came to be as the vertical letter n, a phonogram, versus the horizontal letter 'n', Gardiner no. 35,
. Both are prepositional equivalents, with the horizontal letter n, the N-water ripple (n hieroglyph) being more common, as well as more common to form parts of Egyptian language words requiring the phoneme 'n'.

The first usage of the Red Crown was in iconography as the symbol for Lower Egypt with the Nile Delta. Later it came to be used in the Egyptian language as an alphabetic uniliteral, vertical form for letter "n" as a phoneme or preposition. It became functional in running hieroglyphic texts, where either the horizontal or vertical form preposition satisfied space requirements.

The Red Crown is also used as a determinative, most notably in the word for deshret. It is also used in other words or names of gods.

One older use of the red crown hieroglyph is to make the word: 'in'!, (formerly an-(a-with dot)-(the "vertical feather" hieroglyph a, plus the red crown). Egyptian "in" is used at the beginning of a text and translates as: Behold!, or Lo!, and is an emphatic.

In the 198 BC Rosetta Stone, the 'Red Crown' as hieroglyph has the usage mostly of the vertical form of the preposition "n". In running text, word endings are not always at the end of hieroglyph blocks; when they are at the end, a simple transition to start the next block is a vertical separater, in this case the preposition, vertical n, (thus a space saver).

Rosetta Stone usage of Red Crown, not as preposition: 1-part of Pschent-Double Crown, and 2-part of "Taui", the name for Upper and Lower Egypt-(used combined with a Crossroads (hieroglyph)).

Since the start of the next hieroglyphic block could also be started with a horizontal "n" at the bottom of the previous block, it should be thought that the vertical "n" is also chosen for a visual effect; in other words, it visually spreads out the running text of words, instead of piling horizontal prepositions in a more tight text. Visually it is also a hieroglyph that takes up more 'space'-(versus a straight-line type for the horizontal water ripple); so it may have a dual purpose of a less compact text, and a better segue-transition to the next words.

The Red Crown hieroglyph is used 35 times in the Rosetta Stone; only 4 times is it used as a non-preposition. It averages once per line usage in the 36 line Decree of Memphis (Ptolemy V)-(Rosetta Stone).


See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Red crown (n hieroglyph).
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Red crown.


Deshret (vertical letter N) in hieroglyphic writing


  1. Ewa Wasilewska, Creation Stories of the Middle East, Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2000, p.128
  2. Toby A. H. Wilkinson, Early Dynastic Egypt, Routledge 1999, p.194
  3. George Hart, The Routledge Dictionary Of Egyptian Gods And Goddesses, p.100
  4. Ana Ruiz, The Spirit of Ancient Egypt, Algora Publishing 2001, p.8
  5. John D. Baines, Byron Esely Shafer, Leonard H. Lesko, David P. Silverman, Religion in Ancient Egypt: Gods, Myths, and Personal Practice, Cornell University Press 1991, p.93
  6. Toby A. H. Wilkinson, Early Dynastic Egypt, Routledge 1999, p.284

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Red crown.
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