The Anecdotes Behind Hairdos in Ancient Egypt


Egyptian women should be the first to take pride in the fact that most known hairstyles have originally been inspired by hairdos in Ancient Egypt.‘The carre’,  ‘Marie Antoinette’, ‘A La Garcon’, ‘the wavy’, ‘the curly’,  ‘the coil’; most women must have admired and tried them throughout the years. Some came into fashion, disappeared, and recurred with no one questioning the inspiration behind them.

Hairdos in Ancient Egypt..Really?

Anyone who’s skeptical about this statement has to refer to the statues, the images on temple walls, and the papyri to realize that it’s not just a mere claim. This is, in a nutshell, the conclusion that was drawn by Sahar Abdel Rahman, the archaeological researcher and coordinator at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, who obtained her MA degree early this year as she became bent upon making hairdos in Ancient Egypt her thesis in spite of many of her colleagues and professors’ objections and ridicule.

Researcher Sahar Abdel Rahman

“Many other types of research focused on fashion, accessories or jewelry in Ancient Egypt but none on hairstyle,” Abdel Rahman told Daily News Egypt. “This remains a hardly-noticed aspect of the ancient people’s life. The fact that I am particularly interested in hairstyles could be the reason why I have always had an eye for hair, but from an academic viewpoint hair shape proved to be also relevant,” she added.

As the researcher set out one day to comb an archaeological site, she stumbled upon a bust of a woman that she couldn’t date. Noted Abdel Rahman: “There was no evidence other than the hairstyle. I took several photos of the bust and went to discuss the subject with the specialists.”

Although she failed to reach any conclusion with regard to the era to which the bust belonged, that incident led to a research foscusing on Egyptian hairstyles between the 7th Century BC and the 4th Century AD. 

A Subject of Great Significant!

Abdel Rahman explained: “I found out that hairstyle was never a matter of secondary importance for the ancient Egyptians. The accessories of ancient Egyptian brides included a number of wigs that were placed on their heads as a sign of respectability. Besides hair irons and substances used for hairstyling revealed by excavations, a factory for manufacturing wigs out of natural hair or fibers was unearthed near El Deir El Bahari in Luxor.” 

She further elaborated: “In line with the hygienic standards of the time, the heads of ancient Egyptian children were always zeroed with a lock left to grow on one side to indicate that the child hasn’t reached puberty. Due to excessive shaving during childhood, the ancient Egyptians’ hair was densely wooly but never long, which was why they used wigs in religious ceremonies to emulate the deities that were depicted wearing long hair.” 

The period between the 7th Century BC to the 4th Century AD encompasses the late Pharaonic period, the Greco-Roman period, and the Byzantine era that witnessed the advent of Christianity. Studying these eras,  Abdel Rahman has been able to correct misinformation about the dates of some of the antiquities and discover that, rather than an arbitrary matter, hair forms were a sincere representation of each period’s set of traditions and deities.

 “For instance, focusing on hairstyle and other details I’ve managed to argue that some statues that were believed to belong to Cleopatra VII could be those of Cleopatra the first, the second, or the fourth. Soon I will devote an entire lecture to the subject.”

The Research

The research that Abel Rahman aspires to publish in English falls into five chapters: the first relates to the royals’ hairstyles, the second to the goddesses priestesses and mythological characters, the third which deals with the hair shapes of the common people is divided into two sections that shed light respectively on the middle and working classes which could be distinguished from each other through the hairdo.

While the fourth chapter was devoted to the tools used for hairstyling, the fifth chapter summed up by explaining how the ancient Egyptians influenced invaders and got influenced by them to finally offer a wide range of hairstyles that were hardly noticed by analysts.

The Paranoiac Age was characterized by strict adherence to traditions, but during the rule of the Ptolemaists three types of hairdos could be noticed: the traditional Egyptian style, the hair-fashion that combined both Egyptian and Greek hairstyles, and finally the pure Greek haircut that we see on Alexandrian coins.    

Abdel Rahman noted that as a certain hairstyle marked each period in modern time, similarly the rule wasn’t broken in bygone ages. “Presently hairstyles change every 5 years, but I noticed that in the late Pharaonic period the hair fashion changed every 50 years and every 25 years during the Greco-Roman period. After Christianity became the official religion in Egypt many women began to wear the head cover in an attempt to emulate Virgin Mary.”

The study of hairdos in Ancient Egypt and ancient hair forms in general revealed that the hair was styled in a way that was aimed at invoking the benediction of the gods. “For example, the typical hairstyle of an ancient Egyptian woman, which was divided into three long equal parts that flowed on the two sides and the back, were symbolic of the trio of Isis, Osiris, and Horus. The style also implied the sincere wish that the gods would preserve the hair and increase it.”        

This article was Originally written by Ahmed Kafafi

Edited by Noha Kandil

You’ll find more articles that will take you back in time here!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here