In Egyptian history, the Upper and
Lower Egypt period (also known as
The Two Lands, a name for
Ancient Egypt during this time) was the
final stage of its prehistory and directly preceded the nation's
unification. The conception of Egypt as the Two Lands was an example
of the dualism in ancient Egyptian culture and appeared frequently in
texts and imagery, including in the titles of Egyptian kings and
The Egyptian expression sema-tawy is usually translated as "The Uniter
of the Two Lands"  and was depicted as a human trachea entwined
with the papyrus and lily plant. The trachea stood for unification,
while the papyrus and lily plant represent Lower and Upper Egypt.
Standard titles of a King of Egypt was King of Upper and Lower Egypt
(written as nsw-bi.tj)  and Lord of the Two Lands (written as
nb-tꜣwy). Similarly a Queen might use titles such as Lady of The Two
Lands (nbt-tꜣwy), Mistress of the Entire Two Lands (hnwt-tꜣwy-tm),
and Mistress of the Two Lands (hnwt-tꜣwy).
2 Sema Tawy and symbolism
3 See also
Pschent, the double crown of Egypt
Ancient Egypt was divided into two regions, namely
Upper Egypt and
Lower Egypt. To the north was Lower Egypt, where the
out with its several branches to form the
Nile Delta. To the south was
Upper Egypt, stretching to Syene. The terminology "Upper" and "Lower"
derives from the flow of the
Nile from the highlands of East Africa
northwards to the Mediterranean Sea.
The two kingdoms of Upper and
Lower Egypt were united c. 3000 BC, but
each maintained its own regalia: the hedjet or White Crown for Upper
Egypt and the deshret or Red Crown for Lower Egypt. Thus, the pharaohs
were known as the rulers of the Two Lands, and wore the pschent, a
double crown, each half representing sovereignty of one of the
kingdoms. Ancient Egyptian tradition credited Menes, now believed to
be the same as Narmer, as the king who united Upper and Lower Egypt.
Narmer Palette the king is depicted wearing the Red Crown in
one scene and the White crown in another, and thereby showing his rule
over both Lands.
Sema Tawy and symbolism
Hapi tying the papyrus and reed plants in the sema tawy symbol for the
unification of Upper and Lower Egypt
The union of Upper and
Lower Egypt is depicted by knotted papyrus and
reed plants. The binding motif represents both harmony through linkage
and domination through containment. The duality is an important part
of royal iconography. Sometimes the duality is further extended by
having the knotted plants extend and bind foreign foes (both from the
North and the South) as well.
During the first dynasty dualistic royal titles emerge, including the
King of Upper and
Lower Egypt ( nsw-bi.tj) title which combines the
Upper Egypt and a bee representing Lower Egypt. The
other dualistic title is the Two Ladies name or Nebty name. The two
ladies as Nekhbet, the vulture goddess associated with Hierakonpolis
in Upper Egypt, and Wadjet, the cobra goddess associated with
There are many depictions of the ritual unifications of the Two Lands.
It is not known if this was perhaps a rite that would have been
enacted at the beginning of a reign, or merely a symbolic
representation. Many of the depictions of the unification show two
gods binding the plants. Often the gods are
Horus and Set, or on
Horus and Thoth. There are several examples of Barque stands
from the reigns of
Amenhotep III (Hermopolis),
Taharqa (Gebel Barkal),
Atlanersa (Gebel Barkal) that show two river gods performing the
rite. This matches a scene from the Temple at
Abu Simbel from the time
of Ramesses II.
There are only a handful of scenes that show the King himself
performing the ritual. All of these are from barque stands and date to
the reigns of Amenhotep III,
Sety I and Ramesses III. The latter two
may be copies of the first one.
The river god Hapi uniting Upper and Lower Egypt. Colossi of Memnon.
Reign of Amenhotep III.
Temple scene at Luxor, Thebes
Alabaster Jar depicting the sema tawy symbol with Hapy. From the tomb
Ramesses III at the temple of Khonsu. A rare scene showing the King
performing the ritual.
Sema tawy (without deities) on the side of the throne of Khephren
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Category:Sematawy.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Category:Union symbol
History of ancient Egypt
^ Ronald J. Leprohon, The Great Name: Ancient Egyptian Royal
Titulary,Society of Biblical Lit, 2013
^ Abeer El-Shahawy, Farid S. Atiya, The Egyptian Museum in Cairo,
American Univ in Cairo Press, 2005
^ Grajetzki, Ancient Egyptian Queens: A Hieroglyphic Dictionary,
Golden House Publications, London, 2005, ISBN 978-0954721893
^ a b c Wengrow, David, The Archaeology of Early Egypt: Social
transformations in North-East Africa, 10,000 to 2650 B.C., Cambridge
University Press, 2006
^ a b Rania Y. Merzeban, Unusual sm3 t3wy Scenes in Egyptian Temples,
Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, Vol. 44 (2008), pp.
Ancient Egypt topics
Glossary of artifacts
Architecture (Egyptian Revival architecture)
Great Royal Wives
Ancient Egypt portal