Shen ring

Horus, (Louvre Museum), 'Shen rings' in his grasp.

A shen ring is a circle with a line at a tangent to it, which was represented in hieroglyphs as a stylised loop of a rope. The word shen itself means, in ancient Egyptian, encircle, while the shen ring represented eternal protection. In its elongated form the shen ring became the cartouche which enclosed and protected a royal name.[1]

The Shen ring is most often seen carried by the falcon god Horus, but was also carried by the vulture goddess Nekhbet. It was used as early as the third dynasty where it can be seen in the reliefs from Djoser's Step Pyramid complex.[2]

The stretched "shen ring", the cartouche

Shen ring (in talons)
in hieroglyphs

The symbol could be stretched to contain other objects, which were then understood as being eternally protected by the shen ring. When it contained the name of the pharaoh the symbol became the cartouche. The word shen itself means, in Egyptian, encircle.

Shen ring uses in iconography

The Shen ring is the 'shenu'.

Kom Ombo, Goddess Nekhbet, staff, with Shen ring.

See also


  1. UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology online: definition cartouche
  2. Kemp, B. 2007. Ancient Egypt. Anatomy of a Civilisation. pp106


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