Ancient Egyptians Styled Their Hair for the Afterlife

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Everyone knows that ancient Egyptians headed into the afterlife looking their best. The beautiful garments and jewels found in their tombs centuries ago is evidence of this. However, new research suggests that the Egyptians took looking good even in death to even bigger extremes. Researchers from the University of Manchester, UK have uncovered evidence of styling with hair gel on ancient Egyptian mummies.

Led by Natalie McCreesh, the researchers found that men and women would have their hair styled with a fat-based “gel” when they were embalmed. The researchers studied hair samples from 15 mummies from the Kellis 1 cemetery in Dakhla, oasis, in Egypt, which is a community cemetery dating back 3,000 years. The researchers also evaluated mummies from museum collections for a sample of mummies of both sexes between the ages of 4 and 58, ranging from 3,500 to 2,300 years ago.

Light and electron microscopes were used to evaluate the mummies’ hair. The researchers found the hair was coated mostly with a fatty substance, and sometimes a resinous substance. The chemical composition of the substances showed that the substances were different from those used in embalming. According to McCreesh, this suggests that when a body was being prepared for the afterlife, the hair would be covered and protected, or washed and restyled.

McCreesh told New Scientist:

“People presume the ancient Egyptians shaved their heads. The priests and priestesses did, but not everyone. They did take pride in their appearance. The whole point of mummification was to preserve the body as in life. I guess they wanted to look their best. You’d be dressed in your fancy party outfit. You’d want to look beautiful in preparation for the next life.”

Coming from people that clearly took pride in their appearance, particularly in the afterlife, the use of hair gel and styling by the ancient Egyptians isn’t particularly surprising. Still, the fact that researchers were able to detect the hair gel and other styling methods so many years later is pretty interesting. The research was published in the journal Archeological Science

(via New Scientist, image via StewartSynopsis)


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