Diadem of Princess Khenmet

A gold diadem of Princess Khenmet, possibly daughter of King Amenemhat II. She is mainly known from her unrobbed tomb containing a set of outstanding personal adornments. This masterpiece was found in the tomb of Khnemet and her sister Princess Ita in Dahshur.

The crown is made of a network of interlaced gold wires that entangle nearly 200 small flowers, each with a carnelian eye and five turquoise-inlaid petals. The wires are tied to three pins on each side of five ‘crosses’, which are actually five clusters of lotus blossoms, and terminate at a pair of rings on the back of a sixth ‘cross’.

Diadem of Princess Khenmet
Diadem of Princess Khenmet

“the airy lightness of the goldwork must have allowed… the flowers to appear as though scattered through the hair of the wearer”, while the art historian Arielle Kozloff suggested that “it conjures up the image of a lovely young girl as she pads barefoot through the palace or dances in the Audience-Hall with the wreath jingling and rustling on her head.”

“However, for the moment we may wonder whether Khnemet ever once put it on―or whether we are discussing something specifically funerary. More recently, the Egyptologist Wolfram Grajetzki has suggested that elements in the treasure hoards of the 12th Dynasty princesses correspond to elements in the funeral rites of Osiris himself, as described in the ancient Pyramid Texts.”

Egyptian Art, by Bill Manley, Thames & Hudson Ltd, London, England, 2017

Princess Khenmet was buried with a gilded dagger as well as a mace. Some elite women in similar ‘Court Type’ graves elsewhere had daggers, too, and often other weapons: maces, bows, arrows, and even spears. In the small chamber next to the sarcophagus were found further personal adornments. These included two diadems and parts of a necklace made in gold. The latter is most likely not an Egyptian work of art, but was perhaps produced in Crete.

The father of Khenmet is uncertain. From the position of the burial, next to the pyramid of Amenemhat II it seems likely that she was his daughter.

Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty, reign of Amenemhat II, ca. 1932-1898 BC. From the Tomb of Khenmet her sister Ita, Funerary Complex of Amenemhat II at Dahshur. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.