Sunday, January 11, 2009
Black History: Ancient Egyptians loved a good hair weave!
There was probably no better time for hair than in ancient Egypt. You could dye it, cut it, braid it, shave it, weave charms into it—and then there were the wigs—of countless designs. The ancient Egyptians-- both men and women--were known for hating facial and body hair and used all kinds of shaving implements to get rid of it. But hair on the head? They loved it—and had so many ways of showing it.
"Human hair was of great importance in ancient Egypt," writes Egyptologist Joann Fletcher, Ph.D., for Egypt Revealed magazine. "Rich or poor of both genders treated hair—their own or locks obtained elsewhere—as a highly pliable means of self-expression."
But hair styles were more than self-expression. Wigs, which the Egyptians were very fond of, not only allowed for ornate hair decorating, but also helped the ancient Egyptians with cleanliness, protected the (shaved) scalp from the sun and kept the head cool and also prevented that modern-day scourge—head lice, according to Fletcher. She writes, "Our research has turned up the world’s oldest head lice, which bedeviled an Egyptian from Abydos about 5000 years ago."
For the most part, women used hair extensions to fill out thinning hair or just make regular tresses more luxuriant. Wigs and extensions were almost always made of human hair—either collected from the individual or bought or traded from someone else. Wigs and extensions were fashioned with a variety of clever weaves and knots that were secured into or onto the real hair (or scalp) with beeswax and resin. Many wigs had an internal padding of date-palm fiber that gave the wigs their famous fullness.
Braids were a favorite form of hair extension, and some were woven into intricate designs to give more length and greater style. According to Fletcher, a man buried at Mostagedda had used thread to fasten lengths of human hair to his own. The wavy brown hair of Queen Meryet-Amun had been filled out around the crown and temples with tapered braids. She was also buried, as many well-to-do women, with a duplicate set of braids.
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