• Imagining History

Why Were The Pharaohs So Obsessed With The Cobra? - Ancient Egypt Guide for Keystage 2


A quick google image search of Ancient Egyptian artefacts and monuments will likely throw up a bunch of photos of the Egyptian sphinx, maybe Tutankhamun’s death mask and a canopic jar or two. But look a little closer and you’ll see one particular feature hidden in every photo – a cobra.

By Dennis Jarvis

This is because the cobra is an important symbol for royalty in Ancient Egypt. The Egyptian Pharaohs pasted images of the cobra everywhere; in their hieroglyphs, on furniture, on their clothing and accessories, on statues of themselves, you name it! In fact, Pharaohs loved cobras so much they sometimes requested a cobra to be mummified and popped in their tomb with them after they died.


The image of a rearing cobra with it’s hood flared as if ready to strike is called an “Uraeus” by Egyptologists (that’s a fancy name for a historian studying Ancient Egypt). The Uraeus represented the goddess Wadjet (often shown as being half lady, half cobra). Wadjet was considered to be the protector of the Pharaoh & was said to spit venom at anybody who threatened a Pharaoh or their tomb.


Pharaohs would often wear the Uraeus on their crowns or headdresses. This would give them protection and show everybody they were the rightful ruler of Egypt.

By Tarekheikal

There were many different types of crown that a Pharaoh would wear with an Uraeus – but one of the most well known is the Nemes.


The Nemes was a headdress formed from a piece of cloth striped in blue and gold. It is thought of as the “last crown” a Pharaoh would wear because it marks the end of the Pharaoh’s life on earth.


Fun fact – the number of golden rings holding the Nemes in place at the back of the headdress showed the number of years the Pharaoh had been alive for.


And the Pharaoh wouldn’t just have one Nemes. Like with the image of the cobra, the image of the Nemes was popped onto everything in his tomb, including the Canopic Jars that held his organs!


Discover how to make your own Egyptian Cobra Pharaoh's Staff in this craft activity for kids.

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