Silver diadem

This silver diadem was thought to have come from Nubkheperre Intef’s Dra’ Abu el-Naga tomb. Nubkheperre Intef (also known as Antef, Inyotef, and Intef VI) was an Egyptian ruler of the Seventeenth Dynasty of Egypt who reigned in Thebes during the Second Intermediate Period, when Egypt was divided into rival dynasties, including the Hyksos in Lower Egypt.

Further examination indicated that the royal owner of the diadem could no longer be identified. It has sparked some conjecture, thanks in part to the mysterious circumstances surrounding its discovery. A second potential 17th dynasty royal headwear piece has been identified by British Egyptologists, which may have originated with the burial of Queen Mentuhotep, King Djehuti’s wife.

The diadem’s band is 55.5 cm in circumference and is made of 1 to 1.5 millimetre thick hammered silver leaf. Both ends are soldered together. Line patterns have been applied at regular intervals to make a block frieze. The long hanging ribbons are made up of two strips of silver leaves. Pieces of linen were discovered inside the ribbons. These must be from the wrappings around the mummy’s head, where the jewellery was recovered. The uraeus is constructed of 16 to 18-carat gold. Fa├»ence inlays are formed into the shape of a lotus blossom.

This silver diadem was thought to have come from Nubkheperre Intef's Dra' Abu el-Naga tomb.
This silver diadem was thought to have come from Nubkheperre Intef’s Dra’ Abu el-Naga tomb.

Nubkheperre Intef’s tomb is mentioned in the Abbott Papyrus, which documents an investigation into tomb robberies during Ramesses IX’s reign, around 450 years after Intef’s burial. Although authorities discovered a tunnel excavated into the pyramid by tomb thieves, his tomb was described as “uninjured” since the tomb robbers were unable to locate and access the burial room.

Nubkheperre Intef’s tomb was first raided by tomb robbers in 1827, but some of its riches ended up in the hands of Western collectors; the British Museum purchased his distinctive rishi-style coffin from the Henry Salt collection (EA 6652).

His tomb was later discovered by early Egyptologists about 1881, but knowledge of its site was lost until 2001, when it was uncovered by German scholars led by Daniel Polz, deputy director of the German Archaeological Institute, in Dra’ Abu el-Naga. The coffin of Nubkheperre Intef was purportedly discovered in his grave, together with a diadem or crown, some bows and arrows, and the heart-scarab of king Sobekemsaf.

Discovery of the diadem

The headband is claimed to have been part of a set of items discovered in 1827 in a tomb at Dra Abu el-Naga, a burial site for 17th-dynasty pharaohs on the Nile’s western bank near Thebes. The discovery includes a mummy in a human-shaped casket. The mummy wore a silver diadem on his head and a heart scarab, which is a revered scarab beetle, on his breast. The coffin was inscribed with inscriptions in King Antef’s name, but the scarab was intended for Sobekemsaf, a pharaoh who came to power after Antef. In 1828, the diadem arrived in Leiden as part of Jean d’Anastasi’s extensive collection.

It’s unknown if the coffin and mummies belong together. Luxor’s native residents, who live amid the antiquities, occasionally mixed things discovered in the old tombs to make them more appealing to collectors and gain as much money as possible for themselves. It’s possible that we’re dealing with an intentionally composed group of things. It’s interesting, for example, that the diadem arrived at Leiden with a string of beads wrapped around the headband. These ropes date from the same era but are part of a separate object, a collar. The diadem and strand of beads are presently on display individually at the National Museum of Antiquities.

Silver diadem
Silver diadem

The diadem is created in the Middle Kingdom’s gold smithing tradition. The 12th dynasty’s rulers and female relatives wore the most exquisite and technically perfect head jewellery. The builder of the Leiden diadem was definitely a student of the master blacksmiths of the day. The polish, decorative features, and glassy substances intended to replace the gemstones make the piece less refined than its Middle Kingdom counterparts. However, aficionados see it as a lovely and elegant piece of gold smithing.

The diadem is made out of a simple headband with hanging ribbons at the rear, and the intersection is embellished with a distinct floral bow. In the front, we notice a uraeus, the holy cobra that protects and is attributed to the gods. The diadem is a forged headband made of linen and precious metal, primarily silver. Headbands similar to these, but made of linen, were often used in Egypt, particularly by sailors. This royal object features the linear ornamental patterns found in linen examples. The linen headband was called sesjed. The oldest known Egyptian sesjed diadem is from approximately 2500 B.C.


Silver diadem, with inlay, thought to have come from Nubkheperre Intef’s Dra’ Abu el-Naga tomb
Second Intermediate Period, 17th Dynasty, c. 1647 B.C.
Now at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Netherlands.