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Why was the looped sash worn at the kings waist almost always painted red?

What significance
does this color hold and what message does it convey as a prominent regalia element? In the first
post on the red looped sash, we discussed the use of sashes in general, outlined previous
scholarship on the regalia element, and pointed out the occurrences of the looped sash in
Ramesside royal tombs. That post noted that flowing sashes were connected to divine insignia and
appear to have been related to the ankh, an important symbol of revivification. In this second
installment of our eamination of the looped sash, the focus is a general eamination of the color red
in ancient !gypt. "lthough it may seem a digression, it is important to this four#part discussion of
the range of meanings inherent in the physical appearance of the looped sash that an investigation
of its color be carried out.
$olors had great meaning and carried magical significance %see &. 'inch in Colour and Painting in
Ancient Egypt (. Red was an especially potent color)it was connected to the wild desert, primeval
powers of creation, blood and violence, and certain aspects of the solar cycle. When depicted in
color, the looped sash is almost invariably red, although I have found a few blue eamples.
Ramses III in QV44 wearing a blue looped sash:

Red %desher( is a highly ambivalent color throughout !gyptian history. The color was associated with
the deserts, and deshret %the *red lands( stood in balance against kemet, the black land %i.e. the
fertile +ile ,alley(. Through its relationship with the uncontrolled hinterlands, red was connected to
virulent and chaotic powers, such as the raging of -eth and the monstrous snake "pophis , but red is
also closely linked with the sun and represented the stalwart protection granted by the !yes of
Re who guarded the sun god on his .ourney.
Apophis (Apep) bound in KV9:
The goddesses who could personify the !ye, such as -akhmet and /athor , are described in some
magical tets as being clad in brilliant red linen. These potentially *angry goddesses are depicted in
red clothing as well, such as /athor in the tomb of Thutmosis I, .
Sakhmet at edinet !abu:

Red was considered the morning and evening color of Re , representing that moment when he
crosses the dangerous liminal 0one of the hori0on. When the looped sash appears in the costume
of the living "menhotep III, it, along with the apron embellished with disc#topped uraei, shebiu collar,
armbands, and feather patterned aprons, was intended to identify the king with the sun. 1any of
these costume elements had been seen previously on pharaoh %from the time of "menhotep II(, but
only in a particular contet2 where the king was portrayed in private tombs wearing these attributes,
enshrined, and referred to as the sun god Re %W.R. 3ohnson, in Amenhotep III , p. 45(
Red and blood were intimately connected with the daily rebirth of the sun god. There are two ma.or
reasons for this association indicated tetually. 6ne of these is connected with +uts birth blood,
which emerges with the disc and is called the 7red flood8 %in $offin Tet 9:;, for eample(.
"eiling in the burial #hamber o$ KV9% showing the solar dis# on it&s #'#li#al (ourne' through
It is perhaps telling that in $T ;<9, the word *hahw, or *flood, is determined not only with a water
sign but also a sky symbol. The tet from the cenotaph of -eti I at "bydos indicates that, after his
birth, the re.uvenated god 7swims in his redness8 %3."llen, Genesis in Ancient Egypt , p.=(.
*etail in KV9 o$ Re% shown as a red #hild% emerging $rom the netherworld at dawn:

The other, more aggressive, connection is made apparent in 'yramid Tet >;=#9, the 7$annibal8
spell, which describes how the deceased king swallows his enemies in order to absorb their power
%?.&oebs, Crowns in Egyptian Funerary Literature , p.>:;(. The process is considered
simultaneously destructive and creative, much like cooking *destroys the original ingredients, but the
whole comes together to form something new. /erishef, the *ba who is in his redness, was
associated with sunrise and presided over the @ake of Alood. This deity, who represented the united
Re and 6siris and was associated with kingship and its transfer, commenced terrestrial kingship 7as
a result of -akhmets bloodbath8 %&oebs, >B9( /e was considered to be the actual embodiment of
the aggressive dawn#form of the sun god. The *flood of blood apparent on the pre#dawn hori0on
7appears to represent the %chaotic pre#sunrise( basis from which the new creation emerges in the
morning8 %&oebs, >B9(.
+he sun god emerging in the burial #hamber o$ KV9% surrounded b' prote#ti,e $ire spewed
$rom the uraei:
The protectively maternal and dangerously bloody aspects of red are eplicitly linked in terms of
the deshret crown in the tet of $T 99 %&oebs, >:<(.
*etail o$ the solar bark in KV9- note the red.#lothed goddess wearing the deshret #rown
standing be$ore the bark:
This dualistic nature is further suggested by the various interpretations of the red of dawn. It has
been noted, for eample, that the *red flood could not only refer to +uts birth blood, but also to the
ochre#colored beer that was poured out on the land to entice and appease the angry !ye %&oebs,
"ccording to the -eti I cenotaph tet, it is seems clear that the sun was *born some time before
actual sunrise. The duat is described as being not at the visible hori0on, but rather 7somewhat
below the apparent intersection of sky and earth8 %"llen, 5(. The eleventh hour of the "mduat was
called the *red#hour, and depictions of this portion of the solar cycle show four goddesses, wearing
desert determinatives as crowns, who bear individual names like *Igniter. These aggressively
protective females functioned to destroy the enemies of the cosmic process who were attempting to
halt the solar bark and stop the sun god from re.uvenating creation at his rising. -ince fire is their
medium, these *reddening goddesses might be seen as manifestations of the !ye, the shining
uraeus who burns the bodies of !gypts enemies with her flame.
/uardians o$ the sun god in KV9- note the $our $emales holding large red kni,es% like those
inserted in the bod' o$ Apophis:
In $T 594, the sun god at dawn is described as three in oneCthe self#created Re, -akhmet
overpowering his enemies, and the distant /orus who presides over the !nnead %&oebs, =:=(. If the
rising sun can be simultaneously seen as Re and -akhmet, the idea that the disc *drinks up the
redness of dawn to emerge anew may also be related to the myths of the Distant !ye. The !ye is at
first distant and angry, but once appeased, she brings *completeness to her father, Re. The
*devouring flame that is the angry !ye 7.udges and gathers the gods8 for the apparent slaughter of
the stars that occurs at dawn %&oebs, ==B(. The sky progresses from night, which is full of *millions
of stars, to the deep redness that spreads before dawn. This redness *eats up the stars, which lose
their brilliance and seem to vanish under the progressive tide. Then the disc begins to emerge from
the hori0on, apparently *sucking the red flood into itself, until it separates from the hori0on as the
last trace of *blood disappears %&oebs =9:(.
+he newl'.reborn sun god emerging $rom the dis# (detail in KV9 burial #hamber):
The redness of dawn is also connected to /orus , the archetype of kingship. 'T 9:9, for instance,
includes a reference to the */orus of %dawn(#redness, and the king himself is said to be 7the redness
that came forth from +ut8 in 'T <95:a %&oebs, <54(. /orus is eplicitly connected to red cloth in
tets related to the ritual of the meret#chests at !dfu . The god is said to 7Eunite with the seshed#
linen to overthrow your foe. Fou hold the red linen in its moment8 %". !gberts, In Quest o !eaning ,
Seti I o$$ering red linen to Amun.Re at his Ab'dos temple:
"ctual royal eamples of red sashes survive from the +ew ?ingdom. There were three different
types of sashes found in the tomb of TutankhamunG undecorated simple, tapestry woven, and
*"marna#style %&. ,ogelsang#!astwood, "utankhamun#s $ardrobe , BH(. 6ne of the *"marna sashes
is largely intact %3! 5>59;( and preserves a linen tapestry woven central panel with pairs of
streamers etending from each side. "lthough they are woven with several colors, the decorated
sashes are predominantly red.
+utankhamun&s 0Amarna& sash as displa'ed in the 1g'ptian useum% "airo:
*etail o$ +utankhamun&s sash:
"lso almost entirely red is the so#called *Rameses girdle. This incredibly well eecuted tetile has
been interpreted as a scarf, a .acket, or a belt, but has been recently reinterpreted %by &. ,ogelsang#
!astwood( as an eample of one of these long, looped sashes. It is delicately embroidered
with ankh signs and originally displayed a finely eecuted line of tet %now completely destroyed(
that included the names and titles of Ramses III.
The looped red sash appears on the living king during the reign of "menhotep III. "lso during this
period, a long red sash begins to be worn around the waist of royal women. This same type of
crossed tie is well known from the iconography of goddesses in the +ew ?ingdom, particularly Isis.
It appears on "menhotep IIIs mother, 1utemwia, in TT >>5 where he represents a form of the sun
god and she stands in the position of a goddess . The sash was likely intended in this scene to tie
her with the sky mother who ensures the suns .ourney. Ay the beginning of the +ineteenth Dynasty,
the iconography of Isis 7is indistinguishable from that of royal women8 %@. Troy, Patterns o
Queenship , <>;(.
Isis and )eith wearing the girdle tie in QV44:
"s seen in the figure above, the shape of this tie worn by goddesses and Iueens is rendered Iuite
distinct from the looped sash that appears on the king. This type of tie %which sometimes also
appears on male deities( wraps twice around the body and is knotted at the waist in the front, with
the ends dangling down the front. The kings looped sash is wrapped an unknown number of times
around the waist %it is generally concealed by a belt, layered on top of the wrapped tie( and knotted
at the side, with one end loose and the other end tied into a loop. Aoth kinds of ties represent ritual
knots that encircle the bodies of these beings, binding and protecting them while their bright
coloration loudly announces their apotropaic significance. They may, in fact, be two different
versions of the same fundamental attributeCa strip of cloth that ritually enfolds, conceals, and
This red attribute, which encircles the body of goddesses and Iueens, may be directly related to
the tyet amulet , the shape of which has been interpreted as a girdle tie. -ee the large blue and
red tyet amulet behind +efertum in the tomb of /oremheb %?, B;( . This probable connection
between the tyet amulet and the girdle tie would be consistent with the association of the protection
of a mother goddess. The tyet amulet is usually made of carnelian or other red material %although
they could also be blue( and is eplicitly connected to the blood of Isis and the apotropaic role it
plays for the deceased in the "fterlife. In addition, the amulet has been linked to menstrual blood
and its place in reproduction. The element was specifically connected with the protective tie used by
Isis to shield the fetal /orus when -eth tried to cause her to miscarry.
There was an apparently deep connection between the tyet and the ankh. -ome early ivory
fragments from "bydos show a tyet %rather than the ankh, as became usual( alternating
with was signs, and both ankh#d%ed and tyet#d%ed combinations are preserved from the early 6ld
A $rie2e o$ djed and tyet signs at *endera :

!ven into the +ew ?ingdom, the ankh and tyet remained strongly associated although clearly
differentiated. They may even be viewed as two versions of the same thing, since the primary
difference between them is the orientation of the *armsCstiffened and held hori0ontally for
the ankh as opposed to the softly rounded, flaccid arms of the tyet.
The above investigation suggested a range of possible meanings for the red looped sash. The
associations of the red tie with the aggressive !yes of Re and the morning and evening ordeals of
the solar god, when he passed through the dangerous liminal 0one, indicate that this attribute was
related to a powerful form of apotropaic protection. Its similarity to the girdle ties worn by goddesses
and Iueens, combined with the connection between both types of ties and the tyet and ankh,
suggests that this ritual knot was not only protective but also contained a significant creative
potential. It is possible that the particular meaning inherent in the sash may vary considerably
depending upon the contet and type of scene.
What do these aggressively apotropaic connotations reveal about the looped red sash? /ow does
the connection between the guardians of the sun god and red ties fit in with the use of the looped
sash as an item of royal costume? In the net post on the looped red sash, we will discuss the
appearances of this element of royal regalia at 1edinet /abu.