Why Were The Pharaohs So Obsessed With The Cobra? - Ancient Egypt Guide for Keystage 2
Updated: Jun 20
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.
This is because the cobra is an important symbol of 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 that they sometimes requested a cobra to be mummified and popped into their tomb with them after they died.
The image of a rearing cobra with its hood flared as if ready to strike is called a “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.
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!
If you are a teacher then you'll definitely want Imagining History to bring their 'Ancient Egypt: A Time Travel Tour' Interactive workshop to your school.
Our Award-Winning sessions combine role-play, storytelling, demonstrations, and drama and performance to bring history to life for your students.