An ancient Egyptian woman who lived 3300 years ago was found to have no less than 70 hair extensions. This incredibly elaborate hairstyle was probably made especially for her resting place.

Image credits: Jolanda Bos.

Interestingly enough, she wasn’t mummified, her body was simply wrapped in a mat, said Jolanda Bos, an archaeologist working on the Amarna Project.

“Whether or not the woman had her hair styled like this for her burial only is one of our main research questions,” said Bos in an email to Live Science. “The hair was most likely styled after death, before a person was buried. It is also likely, however, that these hairstyles were used in everyday life as well and that the people in Amarna used hair extensions in their daily life.”

She was found in a newly built city (at the time), and archaeologists don’t know much about her name, age, occupation or social status. What they do know, however, is that she is one of hundreds of people, including many others whose hairstyles are still intact, who were buried in a cemetery near the ancient city now called Amarna.

Amarna is located on the east bank of the Nile River in the modern Egyptian province of Minya, some 58 km (36 mi) south of the city of al-Minya, 312 km (194 mi) south of the Egyptian capital Cairo and 402 km (250 mi) north of Luxor. It was build by the Pharaoh Akhenaten of the late Eighteenth Dynasty (c. 1353 BC), and abandoned shortly afterwards.

Akhenaten was a strange pharaoh who tried to shift Egypt from a polytheistic religion to a monotheistic one, worshiping the solar disk. He ordered that Amarna was built in the desert, in a harsh area with little access to water. It was a time of change for the entire kingdom, and, apparently, fashion was also changing.

Artistic depiction of Amarna. Via Amarna 3D.

Bos and her team found several other women with extensions in their hair, something previously unreported in Egyptian (or any other) culture. She reports a great variety in hairstyles in the city; they range “from very curly black hair, to middle brown straight,” she noted in the journal article, something “that might reflect a degree of ethnic variation.”

It’s quite possible that Amarna was very different from the rest of Egypt. People there seemed to be very fond of braids, and women had rings or coils around their ears, she reports.

 “Braids were often not more than 20 cm [7.9 inches] long, leaving the hair at shoulder length approximately,” Bos added. “The longest hair that was found consisted of multilayered extensions to a length of approximately 30 cm [11.8 inches].”

They even found a woman who was dyeing her hair – using an orange color (likely from henna plants) to cover her graying hair.

“We are still not completely sure if and what kind of hair coloring was used on this hair, it only seems that way macroscopically,” said Bos in the email. “At present we are analyzing the hairs in order to find out whether or not some kind of coloring was used. On other sites dyed hair was found from ancient Egypt.”

 

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