Saturday, December 2, 2017

Middle Kingdom Hair Dressing

Fig. 1 - Wig of a Dyn. 12 princess
    Humans have changed remarkably little in thousands of years. While this should probably not be surprising, I am frequently reminded of it during the course of studying the ancient Near East. From Hammurapi's law code, which lists legal cases that could occur today as well of thousands of years ago, to more mundane things like the ancients attempting to enhance their attractiveness by their choice of clothing it is remarkable how similar we are to the ancients.

     One example of this is hair dressing. In ancient Egypt women seem to have often shaved their heads (to keep cooler?), but they seem to have worn wigs when socializing or appearing in public. Figure 1 shows a reconstructed wig from the Middle Kingdom which is in the Metropolitan Museum. The owner was a princess who could afford to have it decorated with gold ringlets. No doubt she had a full complement of jewelry to wear with the wig as well has a mirror to admire the results.

     Often the wigs needed more hair added into them to repair damage of give them a fuller look. A scene from the tomb of the 11th Dynasty Queen Neferu (raging of Montuhotep II) shows one of her attendants styling the royal wig. The Queen is also wearing a broad collar and is obviously preparing for some party or affair of state. In a scene from the same tomb (figure 3) one of the Queen's attendants is preparing a new lock of hair that can be added to the Queen's wig.