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Color in Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians had a great appreciation for life which is clearly depicted through their art. Images of people enjoying themselves – whether in this life or the next – are as plentiful as those most often seen of the gods or funerary rituals. The early Egyptologists who first encountered the culture focused their attention on the many examples of funerary art found in tombs and concluded that Egyptian culture was death-obsessed when, in reality, the ancient Egyptians were wholly absorbed in living life to its fullest.

A detail from the throne of Tutankhamun which shows the phara

Amenhotep III (1386-1353 BCE) at Malkata was brightly painted, the outer walls of white and the interiors of blue, yellow, and green, with murals and other ornamentation throughout. These colors were not chosen randomly but each had a very specific symbolism for the Egyptians and were used to convey that significance. Egyptologist Rosalie David comments on this:

Colour was regarded as an integral element of all art representations, including wall-scenes, statuary, tomb goods, and jewelry, and the magical qualities of a specific color were believed to become an integral part of any object to which it was added.

Color in ancient Egypt was used not only in realistic representations of scenes from every life but to illustrate the heavenly realms of the gods, the afterlife, and the stories and histories of the deities of the Egyptian pantheon. Each color had its own particular symbolism and was created from elements found in nature. Egyptologist Margaret Bunson writes how “artisans began to observe the natural occurrence of colors in their surroundings and pulverized various oxides and other materials to develop the hues they desired” (54). This process of Egyptian artists creating colors for their art dates to the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150-c. 2613 BCE) but becomes more pronounced during the time of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613-2181 BCE). From the Old Kingdom until the country was annexed by Rome after 30 BCE, color was an important component of every work of art fashioned by the Egyptians.

A detail from the throne of Tutankhamun which shows the phara

Realism In Color

Each color was created by mixing various naturally occurring elements and each became standardized in time in order to ensure a uniformity in art work. An Egyptian male, for example, was always depicted with a reddish-brown skin which was achieved by mixing a certain amount of the standard red paint recipe with standard brown. Variations in the mix would occur in different eras but, overall, remained more or less the same. This color for the male’s skin was chosen for realism in the piece, in order to symbolize the outdoor life of most males, while Egyptian women were painted with lighter skin (using yellow and white mixes) since they spent more time indoors.

These paintings from the tomb of Nebamun (c. 1350 BCE) show the New Kingdom period accountant Nebamun hunting birds in the marshes of Egypt. He is accompanied by his wife and daughter. Scenes like these of the deceased enjoying himself were common in New Kingdom tomb chambers.
To the Egyptians, fertile marshes were a symbol of eroticism and rebirth, which gives additional meaning to this image.
On display at the British Museum, London, UK.

The gods were typically represented with gold skin, reflecting the belief that gods did, in fact, have gold skin. An exception to this is the god Osiris who is almost always shown with green or black skin symbolizing fertility, regeneration, and the underworld. Osiris was murdered, returned to life by Isis, and then descended to rule over the land of the dead; the colors used in his depictions all symbolize aspects of his story. Whether a scene shows a man and his wife at dinner or the gods in the solar barge, each color used had to accurately represent the various themes of these events.

Color Creation & Symbolism

The different colors below are listed with their Egyptian name following, the materials used in creating them, and what they symbolized. The definitions follow the work of Richard H. Wilkinson in his Symbolism & Magic in Egyptian Art and Margaret Bunson’s Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, supplemented by other works.

A scene from the Hall of Osiris at Abydos which shows the raising of djed pillars, symbols of stability.

Red (desher) – made from oxidized iron and red ocher, used to create flesh tones and symbolizing life but also evil and destruction. Red was associated with both fire and blood and so symbolized vitality and energy but could also be used to accentuate a certain danger or define a destructive deity. The god Set, for example, who murdered Osiris and brought chaos to Egypt at the beginning of time, was always represented with a red face or red hair or completely in red. One also sees this pattern in written work where the color red is sometimes used to signify a dangerous character or aspect in a story. In wall paintings and tomb scenes red must be carefully interpreted within the context of the scene. Although it was frequently used for emphasis of danger or even evil, it is also as commonly seen symbolizing life or a higher being (as in depictions of the Eye of Ra) or elevated status as in the Red Crown of Lower Egypt.

An Egyptian protective amulet in the form of the Eye of Horus (wedjat). Earthenware, 6th-4th century BCE. (Louvre Museum, Paris)

Blue (irtiu and khesbedj) – one of the most popular colors, commonly referred to as “Egyptian Blue”, made from copper and iron oxides with silica and calcium, symbolizing fertility, birth, rebirth and life and usually used to depict water and the heavens. Wilkinson writes, “by the same token, blue could signify the river Nile and its associated crops, offerings, and fertility, and many of the so-called `fecundity’ figures which represent the river’s bounty are of this hue” (107). Statues and depictions of the god Thoth are routinely blue, blue-green, or have some aspect of blue in them linking the god of wisdom with the life-giving heavens. Blue also symbolized protection. Fertility amulets of the protector-god Bes were often blue as were the tattoos women would wear of Bes or diamond-shaped patterns on their lower abdomen, back, and thighs. It is thought these tattoos were worn as amulets to protect women during pregnancy and childbirth.

Yellow (khenet and kenit) – made from ocher and oxides originally but, from the New Kingdom (c. 1570-1069 BCE) was mixed from arsenic trisulphide and symbolizing the sun and eternity. Yellow was darkened for the golden flesh-color of the gods or lightened with white to suggest purity or some sacred aspect of a character or object. Isis, for example, is always depicted with gold skin in a white dress but, sometimes, her dress is a light yellow to emphasize her eternal aspect in a scene or story. It is thought that priests and priestesses of the gods of Egypt would sometimes dress as their deities and Wilkinson suggests that priests of the god Anubis would color their skins yellow on certain occassions to “become” the god for the event. Although Anubis was traditionally represented as black-skinned, there are a number of texts depicting him with the golden hue of the other gods.

Green (wadj) – mixed from malachite, a copper mineral, and symbolizing goodness, growth, life, the afterlife, and resurrection. The Egyptian afterlife was known as The Field of Reeds and, in some eras, as The Field of Malachite and was always associated with the color green. Wilkinson writes how green was “naturally a symbol of growing things and of life itself” and goes on to point out how, in ancient Egypt, “to do `green things’ was a euphemism for positive, life-producing, behavior in contrast to `red things’ which symbolized evil” (108). Green is the color of the dying and reviving god Osiris and also of the Eye of Horus, one of the most sacred objects in Egyptian mythology. In early tomb paintings the spirit of the deceased is shown as white but, later, as green to associate the dead with the eternal Osiris. In keeping with the symbolism of ressurection, green is also often used to depict the goddess Hathor, Lady of the Sycamore. Hathor was closely associated with the Sycamore tree, with renewal, transformation, and rebirth. Mummies of tattooed women suggest the ink could have been green, blue, or black and tattoos have been linked with the worship of Hathor.

A detail from the Book of the Dead of Aaneru from Thebes, Third Intermediate Period, XXI Dynasty, 1070-946 BCE. (Egyptian Museum, Turin)

White (hedj and shesep) – made from chalk mixed with gypsum, often employed as a lightener for other hues, and symbolizing purity, sacredness, cleanliness, and clarity. White was the color of Egyptian clothing and so associated with daily life but was frequently employed in artistic pieces to symbolize the transcendent nature of life as well. Priests always wore white and so did temple attendants and temple personnel taking part in a festival or ritual. The objects used in rituals (such as bowls, plates, altars, tables) were made of white alabaster. White, like the other colors, was used realistically in depicting clothing and objects of that color in real life but frequently is employed to highlight the importance of some aspect of a painting; in some cases, it did both these things. The White Crown of Upper Egypt, for example, is routinely referred to as white – and so is realistically depicted – but also symbolized the close connection to the gods enjoyed by the king – and so symbolically represents purity and the sacred.

A scene from a wooden Egyptian sarcophagus depicting Anubis, the god of mummification and the afterlife. c. 400 BCE

Black (kem) – made from carbon, ground charcoal, mixed with water and sometimes burnt animal bones, symbolized death, darkness, the underworld, as well as life, birth, and resurrection. Wilkinson writes, “the symbolic association of the color with life and fertility may well have originated in the fertile black silt deposited by the Nile in its annual flooding and Osiris – god of the Nile and of the underworld – was thus frequently depicted with black skin”. Black and green are often used interchangably in Egyptian art, in fact, as symbols of life. Statues of the gods were frequently carved from black stone but, just as often, from green. Although black was associated with death it had no connotation of evil – which was represented by red – and, frequently appears along with green, or instead of green, in depictions of the afterlife. Anubis, the god who guides the dead to the hall of judgment and is present at the weighing of the soul’s heart, is almost always depicted as a black figure as is Bastet, goddess of women, one of the most popular deities in all of Egypt. Tattoos of Bes were done in black ink and images of the afterlife frequently make use of a black background to not only accentuate the gold and white of the foreground but also symbolize the concept of rebirth.

These basic colors were often mixed, diluted, or otherwise combined to create colors such as purple, pink, teal, gold, silver, and other hues. Artists were not bound by the minerals they mixed their paints from but only by their imaginations and talent in creating the colors they needed to tell their stories.


Color in Context

Aesthetic considerations were of great importance to the Egyptians. Art and architecture is charactized by symmetry and even their writing system, the hieroglyphics, were set down in accordance with visual beauty as an integral aspect of their function. In reading hieroglyphics, one understands the meaning by noting which direction the figures are facing; if they face left, then one reads to the left and, if up or down or right, in whichever of those directions. The direction of the figures provides the context of the message and so provides a means of understanding what it being said.

A pharaoh was known primarily by his throne name. This was traditionally a statement about his divine father, the sun-god Ra, so all cartouches with throne names display a sun-god at the top. A king’s birth name was the only name he had already as a prince and is preceded by the epithet “son of Ra”. Rulers deemed unimportant or illegitimate, including ruling queens, have been omitted from this list.

In the same way, color in Egyptian art must be interpreted in context. In a certain painting, red might symbolize evil or destruction but the color should not always instantly be interpreted along those lines. Black is a color often misinterpreted in Egyptian art because of the modern-day association of black with evil. Images of Tutankhamun, found in his tomb, sometimes depict him with black skin and these were originally associated with death and grief by the early archaeologists interpreting the finds; although the association with death would be correct, and grief did accompany the loss of anyone in ancient Egypt as today, a proper interpretation would be the association of Tutankhamun in death with Osiris and the concept of rebirth and resurrection.

White retains the same meaning in the present day that it had for the ancient Egyptians but, as noted, must also be interpreted in context. The white dress of Isis would signify purity and the sacred yet the white skirt of Set would simply be a representation of how a male Egyptian dressed. Recognizing the symbolism of Egyptian colors, however, and why they were most commonly used, allows one a greater appreciation of Egyptian art and a clearer understanding of the message the ancient artist was trying to convey.



Seti I

Seti I – Menmaatre Seti I (or Sethos I as in Greek) was a pharaoh of the New Kingdom Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt, the son of Ramesses I and Sitre, and the father of Ramesses II. As with all dates in Ancient Egypt, the actual dates of his reign are unclear, and various historians claim different dates, with 1294 BC to 1279 BC[4] and 1290 BC to 1279 BC[5] being the most commonly used by scholars today.

The name ‘Seti’ means “of Set”, which indicates that he was consecrated to the god Set (also termed “Sutekh” or “Seth”). As with most pharaohs, Seti had several names. Upon his ascension, he took the prenomen “mn-m3‘t-r‘ “, usually vocalized as Menmaatre, in Egyptian, which means “Established is the Justice of Re.”[1] His better known nomen, or birth name, is transliterated as “sty mry-n-ptḥ” or Sety Merenptah, meaning “Man of Set, beloved of Ptah”. Manetho incorrectly considered him to be the founder of the 19th dynasty, and gave him a reign length of 55 years, though no evidence has ever been found for so long a reign.

The spectacular tomb of Seti I reveals the importance of his reign. As the son of Ramses I, Seti was only the second pharaoh of the 19th dynasty. However, many Egyptologists consider him the greatest pharaoh of the New Kingdom.

A Military Man

As the son of Ramses I and Queen Sitre, Seti Merenptah followed in his father’s footsteps as a military man. Egyptians considered him a powerful man, and he earned multiple titles, including troop commander, vizier and head archer. He led many campaigns during the reign of his father and during his own reign.

Upon the death of his father, Seti took the name Menmaatre Seti as his official pharaoh name, which meant “Established is the Justice of Re.” He married Tuya, the daughter of a military lieutenant. They had four children together. Their third child, Ramses II, would succeed Ramses on the throne in approximately 1279 BC.

Blurring of Dates

The exact dates of Seti’s reign are uncertain. Egyptian pharaohs frequently changed the dates of previous reigns to remove unpopular pharaohs from history. Because of this practice, many theories exist as to when rulers actually ascended to the throne and how long they remained in power.

Most researchers believe Seti reigned from 1290 BC to 1279 BC. Estimates of this vary from 5 to 20 years. The longest estimate is that he ruled for 55 years, although there is little evidence to this claim. Because of the revisions to history, birth and death dates are unknown.

Restoration of Egypt

Seti’s strong military experience played a major role during his reign. He personally led many military campaigns into Syria and Lybia. He continued expanding Egypt to the east and worked to restore the empire to the past glory of the 18th dynasty. His troops were the first Egyptian forces to meet the Hittites in battle, keeping them from invading Egypt.

Egyptians knew Seti as the “Repeater of Births,” meaning he began an era of order and restoration. Approximately 30 years had elapsed between the reigns of Tutankhamen and Seti I. The pharaohs during this time period focused on the restoration of not only the empire, but also the reliefs vandalized during the reign of King Akhenaten. Egyptologists recognize Seti I as the best known of all the restorer pharaohs due to his marking of repairs with his name.

Many of Seti’s restorations and additions are considered continuations of work left incomplete by previous rulers. He continued the work started by his father on the great Hypostyle hall at Karnak. He also began the construction of the Great Temple of Abydos, but left it to be finished by his son.

Seti’s Tomb

Archaeologist Giovanni Belzoni discovered the tomb of Seti I in October of 1817. Located in the Valley of the Kings in western Thebes, the tomb features an amazing display of display of tomb paintings covering the walls, columns and ceilings. The paintings and bas reliefs provide researchers with valuable information full of meaning and symbolism.

The quality of the reliefs throughout the parts of the building probably surpasses anything found at any other New Kingdom site.

Belzoni considered the tomb the finest tomb of all the pharaohs. Hidden passageways revealed secret rooms, while long corridors served to confuse tomb robbers. Despite the amazing tomb, Seti’s sarcophagus and mummy were missing. It would take archaeologists 70 years to find the final resting place of Seti I.

In 1881, Seti’s mummy was found in the mummy cache at Deir el-Bahri. Damage to his alabaster sarcophagus indicated that his tomb had been robbed and his body disturbed during antiquity. His mummy was damaged, but he had been carefully repaired and re-wrapped.

Examinations of his mummy revealed Seti died of unknown causes before the age of forty. Some researchers believe he died of an illness involving his heart. The hearts of most pharaohs remained in place during mummification. Seti’s mummified heart was located on the wrong side of the body, leading to the theory that perhaps it had been relocated in an effort to cleanse it of disease.

Sources: wikipedia, Reliefs image source: Flicker (kairoinfo4u).


Archaeologists discover a mysterious void inside Egypt’s Great Pyramid

Archaeologists have uncovered a mysterious enclosure hidden deep inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, the oldest of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The massive cavity stretches for at least 30 metres and lies above the grand gallery, an impressive ascending corridor that connects the Queen’s chamber to the King’s in the heart of the historic monument. It is the first major structure found in the pyramid since the 19th century.

It is unclear whether the void is a chamber or a corridor, or whether it played any more than a structural role in the pyramid’s construction – such as relieving weight on the grand gallery below. But measurements show that it has similar dimensions to the grand gallery, which is nearly 50 metres long, eight metres high and more than a metre wide.

Inside the great pyramid

Scientists discovered the void using sensors that detect particles known as muons, which rain down on Earth when cosmic rays slam into atoms in the upper atmosphere. The muons travel at close to the speed of light and behave much like x-rays when they meet objects. Armed with suitable equipment, researchers can used them to reveal the rough internal structure of pyramids and other ancient monuments.

“We know that this big void has the same characteristics as the grand gallery,” said Mehdi Tayoubi at the HIP Institute in Paris, a non-profit organisation that draws on new technology to study and preserve cultural heritage. “It’s really impressive.”


Also known as Khufu’s Pyramid, or the Pyramid of Cheops, the Great Pyramid was built in the 4th dynasty by the pharaoh Khufu, who reigned from 2509 to 2483 BC. The monument rises 140 metres above the Giza Plateau and has three chambers known from previous explorations: a subterranean one at the base of the pyramid, the Queen’s chamber at the centre, and the King’s chamber above. While a granite sarcophagus sits in the King’s chamber, King Khufu’s mummy is missing, and his queens were buried elsewhere. Whatever riches were once in the chambers were looted long ago.

Egyptologists have scores of theories about how the pyramid was built, but there are no reliable accounts of its construction. Herodotus wrote of stones being drawn from quarries near and far, with some being shipped down the Nile on boats. The mammoth construction project occupied the lives of a hundred thousand men, fuelled in part by radishes, onions and leeks, he noted.

To pinpoint the cavity, scientists from Nagoya University in Japan, and KEK, the country’s high energy physics lab, installed muon-detecting photographic plates and electronic muon detectors around the Queen’s chamber. At the same time, researchers from CEA, France’s energy research organisation, trained “muon telescopes” on the pyramid from the outside. All three techniques can tell from which direction incoming muons arrive.

When the teams compared their results, all had found a muon hotspot in the same place, indicating the presence of a large cavity in the pyramid. While most of the monument is made of stone that absorbs muons, chambers and cavities let the particles pass through.

Muon analysis allows scientists to look deep inside ancient monuments without drilling holes or causing other damage to the precious structures. But the technique produces low resolution images, making it impossible for the researchers to tell if the newly-found void runs horizontally or parallel to the grand gallery. Nor can they be sure it is a single enclosure rather than a series of smaller cavities close together, they report in Nature.

“What we are sure about is that this big void is there, that it is impressive, and was not expected by any kind of theory,” said Tayoubi. To shed more light on the purpose of the cavity, Tayoubi called on specialists in ancient Egyptian architecture to come forward with ideas of what it may be so they can be modelled and checked against the team’s data. The cavity may have relieved weight on the roof of the underlying grand gallery, or be a hitherto unknown corridor in the pyramid. The team has no plans to drill into the cavity to explore inside, but they are developing a tiny flying robot that might one day be sent in, if the Egyptian authorities approve.

“It’s a tribute to humankind,” said Tayoubi of the pyramid. “It asks a question about what is our future. If they have been able to do this with the means they had 4,000 or 5,000 years ago and they left this heritage today, what will our own society leave for future generations?”

Peter Der Manuelian, professor of Egyptology and director of the Harvard Semitic Museum, said the discovery was “potentially a major contribution to our knowledge about the Great Pyramid.”

“I’m sure there are imperfections and perhaps small voids or cavities in several locations in the pyramid. What makes this one so interesting is the size, seeming to rival the grand gallery itself in scale,” he said.

“The muons can’t tell us about chambers, form, size, or any possible objects, so it’s far too early to speculate. I know most people want to know about hidden chambers, grave goods, and the missing mummy of King Khufu. None of that is on the table at this point. But the fact that this void is so large warrants further non-invasive exploration,” he added.

In 2011, Rob Richardson, a researcher at the University of Leeds, sent a small snake-like robot into one of the tunnels of the Great Pyramid and took pictures of hieroglyphs that had not been seen for 4,500 years. “I think people assume that all these mysteries of what’s in our world are known but there are still places like the pyramids where we simply don’t know,” he said. “The pyramids have been there for thousands of years and we still don’t know exactly why they are there, what they were used for, or how they were built.”

Source: theguardian.



Horus is one of the oldest and most significant deities in ancient Egyptian religion, who was worshipped from at least the late Predynastic period through to Greco-Roman times. Different forms of Horus are recorded in history and these are treated as distinct gods by Egyptologists. These various forms may possibly be different perceptions of the same multi-layered deity in which certain attributes or syncretic relationships are emphasized, not necessarily in opposition but complementary to one another, consistent with how the Ancient Egyptians viewed the multiple facets of reality. He was most often depicted as a falcon, most likely a lanner or peregrine, or as a man with a falcon head.

The name Horus is Greek. In Ancient Egypt he was known as “Heru” (sometimes Hor or Har), which is translated as “the distant one” or “the one on high”(from the preposition “hr” meaning “upon” or “above”). He was considered to be a celestial falcon, and so his name could be a specific reference to the flight of the falcon, but could also be seen as a more general solar reference. It is thought that the worship of Horus was brought into Egypt during the predynastic period.

He seems to have begun as a god of war and a sky god who was married to Hathor, but soon became considered as the opponent of Set, the son of Ra, and later the son of Osiris. However, the situation is confused by the fact that there were many Hawk gods in ancient Egypt and a number of them shared the name Horus (or more specifically Har, Heru or Hor). Furthermore, the gods Ra, Montu and Sokar could all take the form of a falcon. Each “Horus” had his own cult center and mythology, but over time they merged and were absorbed by the most popular Horus, Horus Behedet (Horus of Edfu).

He was the protector and patron of the pharaoh. As Horus was associated with Upper Egypt (as Heru-ur in Nekhen) and Lower Egypt (as Horus Behedet or Horus of Edfu) he was the perfect choice for a unified country and it seems that he was considered to be the royal god even before unification took place. The Pharaoh was often considered to be the embodiment of Horus while alive (and Osiris once he was deceased). The Turin Canon describes the Predynastic rulers of Egypt as “the Followers of Horus”, and the majority of Pharaohs had an image of Horus at the top of their serekh (a stylised palace facade in which one of the king´s name was written).

However, Sekhemhib (Seth Peribsen) chose to place Horus´ opposite and enemy Set on his serekh while Khasekhemwy placed both Set and Horus above his serekh. As a result, some scholars argue that the mythical battle between Horus and Set was once a real battle between the followers of Set and the followers of Horus. If this was the case, it would seem that the followers of Horus won as Horus remained a popular emblem of kingship while Set was gradually transformed into a symbol of evil. The Pharaoh also had a name (known as the “Golden Horus” name) which was preceded by an image of a sacred hawk on the symbol for gold which specifically linked the Pharaoh to the god. However, it is interesting to note that Set was also known as he of Nubt (gold town), so the symbol for gold could, in fact, relate to him.

Horus and Set were always placed in opposition to each other. However, the exact nature of their relationship changed somewhat over time. Set was the embodiment of disorder and chaos while Horus was the embodiment of order. Similarly, Horus represented the daytime sky while Set represented the nighttime sky. However, in early times the two were also seen as existing in a state of balance in which Horus and Set represented Upper and Lower Egypt respectively. They were often depicted together to indicate the union of Upper and Lower Egypt and there is even a composite deity named Horus-Set, who was depicted as a man with two heads (one of the hawk of Horus, the other of the Set animal).

At this stage, Horus was often considered to be Set´s brother and equal and the fight between them was thought to be eternal. However, the rise in importance of the Ennead resulted in Horus being cast as the son of Osiris and thus the nephew of Set. This changed the nature of the conflict between them, as it was now possible for Set to be defeated and for Horus to claim the throne of Egypt as his own.

The “Eye of Horus” was a powerful protective amulet and when it was broken into pieces (in reference to the time Set ripped out Horus’ eye), the pieces were used to represent the six senses (including thought) and a series of fractions.

Horus was also the patron of young men and was often described as the perfect example of the dutiful son who grows up to become a just man. However, this is perhaps debatable in the light of one of the stories concerning his fight with Set. The mother of Horus (Isis) was a great magician who most certainly had the power to destroy Set. However, when her chance came she could not take it. Set was, after all, her brother. This angered Horus so much that he chopped off his mother’s head in a fit of rage! Thankfully, Isis was more than able to handle this insult and immediately caused a cow’s head to grow from her neck to replace her head. Luckily for Horus, Isis was a compassionate and sympathetic goddess and she forgave her vengeful son his aggressive act.

The Egyptian God Horus was usually depicted as a falcon or a falcon-headed man. He often wore the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. In anthropomorphic form Horus appears as both an adult man and a child, wearing the sidelock of youth (as the son of Isis). There are also numerous depictions of a Horus the child hunting crocodiles and serpents and amulets are known as “cippi” were inscribed with his image to ward off dangerous animals.

Sky god

Since Horus was said to be the sky, he was considered to also contain the sun and moon. It became said that the sun was his right eye and the moon his left, and that they traversed the sky when he, a falcon, flew across it. Later, the reason that the moon was not as bright as the sun was explained by a tale, known as the contestants of Horus and Set, originating as a metaphor for the conquest of Upper Egypt by Lower Egypt in about 3000 BC. In this tale, it was said that Set, the patron of Upper Egypt, and Horus, the patron of Lower Egypt, had battled for Egypt brutally, with neither side victorious, until eventually, the gods sided with Horus.

As Horus was the ultimate victor he became known as Harsiesis, Heru-ur or Har-Wer (ḥr.w wr ‘Horus the Great’), but more usually translated as Horus the Elder. In the struggle Set had lost a testicle, explaining why the desert, which Set represented, is infertile. Horus” left eye had also been gouged out, which explained why the moon, which it represented, was so weak compared to the sun.
Horus was occasionally shown in art as a naked boy with a finger in his mouth sitting on a lotus with his mother. In the form of a youth, Horus was referred to as Neferhor. This is also spelled Nefer Hor, Nephros or Nopheros (nfr ḥr.w) meaning ‘The Good Horus’.

The Eye of Horus is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection and royal power from deities, in this case from Horus or Ra. The symbol is seen on images of Horus” mother, Isis, and on other deities associated with her.

God of war and hunting

Horus was also said to be a god of war and hunting. The Horus falcon is shown upon a standard on the predynastic Hunters Palette in the “lion hunt”. Thus he became a symbol of majesty and power as well as the model of the pharaohs. The Pharaohs were said to be Horus in human form. Furthermore, Nemty, another war god, was later identified as Horus.