Meaning of white in ancient Egypt

hedj; silver hedj; white

In ancient Egyptian art the "colour" white represented purity and omnipotence. White was particularly associated with symbolic religious objects and tools such as those used in the mummification rituals, many of which were made of white alabaster. Alabaster was highly prized by the Egyptians because of it's beautiful shimmering white colour. As a result, it was often used for ritual items such as the canopic chest and offering vessels.

White was also seen as the opposite of red, because of the latter's association with rage and chaos, and so the two were often paired to represent completeness. The two crowns which were combined to form the dual crown were the white crown of Upper Egypt and the red crown of Lower Egypt.

The holy city of Memphis was originally known as "Ineb hedj" which is generally translated as "White Walls", and white garments and sandals were worn to holy ceremonies.

Alabaster canopic chest and jars of Tutankhamun

The word "hedj" represents both white and silver. Silver was very highly prized in Egypt, and fairly scarce. It was very popular in pharonic jewellery, when it was available, and was known as "white gold" (nub hedj). Silver and gold together represented the moon and sun respectively. White paint was made from chalk or gypsum which were plentiful in Egypt.

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