Hair and the Construction of Identity in Ancient Egypt, c. 1480-1350 B.C.

Author(s): Gay Robins
Source: Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, Vol. 36 (1999), pp. 55-69
Published by: American Research Center in Egypt
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40000202
Accessed: 12/06/2010 12:19
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless
you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you
may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.
Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at
http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=arce.
Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed
page of such transmission.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
American Research Center in Egypt is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to
Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt.
http://www.jstor.org
Hair and the Construction of
Identity
in
Ancient
Egypt,
c. 1480-1350 B.C.1
Gay Robins
Introduction
Beginning
at
birth,
the
identity
of
individuals,
an
amalgam
of
age, gender,
social status and
role,
has to be constructed in accordance with
the norms of the social
system they
inhabit. This
identity changes
over time not
only
in the transi-
tions from one life
stage
to the
next,
but also
with the various roles a
person may play
at
any
given
life
stage.
A number of means
may
be em-
ployed
to construct
identity
and mark the shifts
between life
stages
or between different roles.
These can be
verbal,
as in modes of
address;
be-
havioral,
as in the
way
individuals
interact;
or
displayed
on the
body,
as in
circumcision,
scari-
fication or dress.
In
many
societies human hair too has been
and still is
highly charged
with
meaning.
Not
only
can it
carry
erotic,
religious
and
magical
significance,
but the
way
in which it is worn of-
ten encodes information about
gender, age,
and
social status.2 Since in
many
societies,
although
by
no means
all,
the
body
is
usually
covered
by
clothes,
it is
normally
the head hair and the
beard that have been and are
subject
to most at-
tention,
although body
hair
may
be considered
undesirable and
carefully
removed. Head hair
can be allowed to
grow
unrestricted;
it can be
shaved
off;
it can be cut to
any length
or
lengths
between these two extremes. It can also be ar-
ranged
in more or less elaborate
styles.
Because
head hair is so
visible,
what is done with it can
be used to
display
information about the wear-
ers,
but the forms these various
messages
take
will
vary
from one
society
to
another,
because
they
are
culturally specific. People
will
readily
read the
meaning
of different
hairstyles
within
their own
cultures,
but will often be at a loss to
interpret correctly
the
hairstyles
worn
by people
of other cultures. It
follows, then,
that
anyone
studying
an unfamiliar
society
will have to set
out
consciously
to discover the
significance
of the
different
hairstyles employed
in that
society.
My
aim in this
paper
is to examine the
ways
in
which head hair was worn in ancient
Egypt,
and
to consider how it
might
have
helped
construct
social
identity.
Because ancient
Egyptian society,
despite
its more than 3000
years
of cultural conti-
nuity,
was not
unchanging,
I shall restrict
my
en-
quiry
to a
period
of
approximately
one hundred
and
thirty years
from c. 1480-1350
B.C.,
in order
to obtain a
relatively
coherent
body
of material.3
1
A version of this article was
given
as a
paper
at the 1996
ARCE annual
meeting
in St. Louis. I would like to thank
Michelle Marcus for
reading
an earlier draft and for useful
comments and
suggestions.
1
For hair in
general,
see Charles
Berg,
The Unconscious
Significance of
Hair
(London:
Allen and
Unwin, 1951); J.
D. M.
Derrett, "Religious Hair,"
Man 8
(1973), 100-103;
Raymond
Firth,
"Hair as Private Asset and Public
Symbol,"
in:
Symbols
Public and Private
(Ithaca,
New York: Cornell
University Press,
1975), 262-98;
Christopher Hallpike,
"Social
Hair,"
Man 4
(1969), 256-64; idem, "Hair,"
in: Mircea Eliade
(ed.),
The
Encyclopedia of Religion (New
York:
Macmillan, 1987), 154-57;
P.
Hershman, "Hair,
Sex and
Dirt,"
Man 9
(1974), 274-98;
Edmund
Leach, "Magical Hair," Journal of
the
Royal
Anthro-
pological
Institute 88
(1958), 147-64;
Gananath
Obeyesekere,
Medusa 's Head. An
Essay
on Personal
Symbols
and
Religious
Ex-
perience (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1981);
Marcia
Pointon,
"The Case of the
Dirty
Beau:
Symmetry,
Disorder
and the Politics of
Masculinity,"
in: Kathleen Adler and Mar-
cia Pointon
(eds.),
The
Body Imaged (Cambridge: Cambridge
University
Press, 1993),
175-89.
3
For
aspects
of hair in ancient
Egypt,
see
Philippe
Der-
chain,
"La
perruque
et le
cristal,"
Studien zur
altdgyptischen
Kultur2
(1975), 55-74; Joann Fletcher,
"A Tale of
Hair,
Wigs
55
56
JARCE
XXXVI
(1999)
The structure of ancient
Egyptian society
was
organized by
status,
gender
and,
almost cer-
tainly, age. Broadly speaking
the social
hierarchy
divided into the
king,
the
elite,
and the non-elite
who formed the
greatest part
of the
popula-
tion. The elite
group
consisted of the
literate,
male officials who formed the
administration,
together
with their families. The non-elite com-
prised
the semi-literate and non-literate
pro-
fessionals,
who
provided goods
and services for
the
elite;
and the
farmers,
tenant
farmers,
and
laborers who worked the fields and harvested
the abundance of the marshes.
Organization by gender
dictated different roles
for men and women within
society. Among
the
elite,
only
men could hold
government
office,
whereas women ran the
household,
bore and
reared
children,
made music to
accompany
tem-
ple
ritual,
and sometimes held
positions
at court.4
Non-elite men and women were both
employed
by
the elite as household servants and
musicians,
but women
ideally played
a far smaller role in
outdoor labor.5
Organization by age
divided the
population
into different
age groups through
which indi-
viduals would
pass
as
they
moved from one life
stage
to the next. The most obvious of such
stages
in
any society
are
birth,
puberty,
adulthood,
mar-
riage, parenthood
and death.
Unfortunately,
ex-
cept
for the
passage through
death to the next
life,
there is little evidence of how the ancient
Egyptians
marked the transference from one life
stage
to the next. Textual and
representational
evidence
suggests
that circumcision
may
have
sig-
nified the transition from childhood for at least
some
boys.6
Evidence for an
equivalent opera-
tion
performed
on
girls,
such as
clitoridectomy,
is
lacking
in texts
and,
if it had been
performed,
unlike
circumcision,
it would not be
apparent
in
the art.7 For both
sexes,
the
biological
effects of
puberty
in themselves denote the
passage
from
childhood.
Physical
evidence of
hair,
both natural and in
the form of
wigs
made of human
hair,
survives
from ancient
Egypt.
It shows that elite women
could wear either their own
long
hair,
sometimes
supplemented by
additional
tresses,8
or a
wig
placed
over their
long
hair,9
whereas men
kept
their hair short or
shaven,10
so that
complex
male
hairstyles
had to be achieved
through wigs.11
Nevertheless,
such material fails to show the full
range
of
hairstyles
found in
art;
relates
only
to
the elite
group;
and does not
help
us understand
the
way hairstyles
were correlated with different
social roles.
Fortunately,
far more information is
provided by representational
evidence,
which
shows interactions
among figures
of different
age, gender,
and social status. Our main visual
and Lice
," Egyptian Archaeology
5
(1994), 31-33; Joyce Haynes,
"The
Development
of Women's
Hairstyles
in
Dynasty Eigh-
teen," Journal of
the
Society for
the
Study of Egyptian Antiquities
8
(1977), 18-24;
C.
Miiller, "Friseur,"
Lexikon der
Agyptologie
2
(Wiesbaden:
Otto
Harrassowitz, 1977), 331-32; idem, "Haar,"
Lexikon der
Agyptologie 2, 924; idem, "Kahlkopfigkeit,"
Lexikon
der
Agyptologie
3
(1980), 291-92; idem, "Periicke,"
Lexikon der
Agyptologie
A
(1982), 988-90; Saphinaz-Amal Naguib,
"Hair in
Ancient
Egypt,"
Acta Orientalia 51
(1990), 7-26; Georges
Posener,
"La
legende
de la tresse
d'Hathor,"
in: Leonard
Lesko
(ed.), Egyptological
Studies in Honor
of
Richard A. Parker
(1986), 111-17;
Elizabeth
Riefstahl,
"An Ancient
Egyptian
Hairdresser," Brooklyn
Museum Bulletin 13
(1952), 7-16,
"Two
Hairdressers of the Eleventh
Dynasty," Journal of
Near East-
ern Studies 15
(1956), 10-17;
Elisabeth
Staehelin, "Bart,"
Lexikon der
Agyptologie
1
(1975),
627-28. For a
wig workshop,
see Ewa
Laskowska-Kusztal,
"Un atelier der
perruquier
a Deir
el-Bahari,"
Etudes et Travaux 10
(1978), 83-120.
4
Gay Robins,
Women in Ancient
Egypt (Cambridge:
Har-
vard
University Press, 1993).
5
Ibid., 120-24.
6
Constant de
Wit,
"La circoncision chez les anciens
Egyptiens," Zeitschrift fur dgyptische Sprache
und Altertums-
kunde 99
(1972), 41-48;
Wolfhart
Westendorf,
"Beschnei-
dung,"
LA 1
(1975),
727-29 with
bibliography;
Rosalind
and
Jac. Janssen, Growing up
in Ancient
Egypt (London:
The
Rubicon
Press, 1990),
90-97.
1
For the
possibility
of such an
operation
in Ptolemaic
Egypt,
see
John Baines, "Society, Morality,
and
Religious
Practice,"
in:
Byron
E. Shafer
(ed.), Religion
in Ancient
Egypt,
Gods, Myths,
and
personal
Practice
(Ithaca
and London: Cor-
nell
University Press),
144 n. 59.
8
E.g.,
H. E.
Winlock,
The Tomb
of Queen Meryet-Amun
at
Thebes
(New
York:
Metropolitan
Museum of
Art, 1932), 9-10,
pls. 13, 33;
G. Elliot
Smith,
The
Royal
Mummies
(Cairo:
Insti-
tut Francais
d'Archeologie Orientale, 1912),
nos.
60153-54,
61061, 61088, 61095;
Iwataro
Morimoto,
The Human Mummies
from
the 1983 Excavations at
Qurna, Egypt,
Studies in
Egyptian
Culture No. 2 (Tokyo: Waseda University, 1985), heads B, D-F.
9
Female mummies with
wigs: e.g., Smith, Royal
Mum-
mies,
nos.
61062, 61087,
61090.
10
Shaven heads:
e.g., Smith, Royal Mummies,
no.
61065;
Morimoto,
Human
Mummies,
head
A;
short hair:
e.g., Smith,
Royal
Mummies,
nos.
61066-67, 61069, 61073;
Iwataro Mori-
moto et
al.,
Ancient
Egyptian
Mummies
from Qurna, Egypt
II,
Studies in
Egyptian
Culture no. 7
(Tokyo:
Waseda
University,
1988), 2,
fiffs. 1-5.
11
Surviving
male
wigs: e.g., Fletcher,
Egyptian Archaeology
5
(1994),
32.
HAIR AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF IDENTITY IN ANCIENT EGYPT 57
sources are the monuments
produced
for the
elite: their tomb
chapels,
stelae,
and statues.
In this
paper,
I shall concentrate
mainly
on
rep-
resentations from tomb
chapels. Although
built
only by high-ranking
male
officials,
such tomb
chapels incorporated images
of both male and
female
family
members,
as well as
images
of non-
elite
individuals,
who left no monuments of their
own;
the scenes feature
agricultural
activities,
animal
husbandry,
work in the
marshes,
work-
shops,
and some household activities. Since the
images
on these monuments were
manipulated
to fit the elite world
view,
they may
not
always
have coincided with actual
practice. They
should,
nevertheless,
conform to
prevailing
ideals about
social identities and hierarchies.
Children
Several visual
indicators,
not all of which need
be
present
at
once,
distinguish prepubescent
chil-
dren from adults.12 Children are
depicted
on a
smaller
scale;
they
are
usually
nude;
they
suck
their index
fingers;
and most
important
for the
purposes
of this
paper,
their heads are shaved
apart
from a lock of hair that falls from the
right-
hand side. This
sidelock,
worn
by
both
girls
and
boys,
occurs in several
styles,
either as a
single
braid or as a series of braids or curls.13
Since children are
conventionally represented
as
naked,
boys
and
girls
lack the differentiation in
dress that
distinguishes gender
in adults. Never-
theless,
boys
are
usually depicted
with the darker
skin that is the marker of adult male
status,
and
girls
with the
lighter
skin of adult females. In
some
images,
however,
boys
wear
earrings
and
below-the-elbow circlets that
among
adults are
only
worn
by
women,14
so that the construction
of
gender
for
boys
is somewhat ambivalent.
Thus,
male
gender
seems to become
fully
constructed
only
with the transition to
adulthood,
when nu-
dity
and female
jewelry
are
abandoned,
and hair-
styles
and clothes become
gender specific.
Since
images
of male children show them to be uncir-
cumcised,
circumcision
may
also have occurred
as
part
of this same
symbolic system
to mark the
transition from one life
stage
to another.15
Although girls
share
nudity
and
hairstyles
with
boys, they
are
represented
with certain other
traits that are characteristic of adult female
gen-
der,
such as
earrings,
below-the-elbow
circlets,
hip girdles
and
light
skin color. It seems to be
the
adoption
of
specific
female
hairstyles
and
dress that marks the transition from
girlhood
to
womanhood.
Status differentiation is also less marked
among
children than
among
adults.
Although
the
king
and his female relatives are
clearly distinguished
from members of the elite class
by
the
wearing
of
royal insignia,
their
offspring,
when shown as
prepubescent
children,
appear
to be
represented
little
differently
from the
offspring
of the elite.
Although
children of the non-elite are
usually
shown with a shaven head
only,
without a side-
lock,
royal
and elite children can also be shown
in this
way,
so
they
are not
clearly distinguished
from the non-elite.
Although
non-elite children
12
Because scale indicates
importance,
adult
offspring
and other
figures
of less
importance
than the tomb owner
may
be shown on a small scale. However,
as
adults,
these
figures
are clothed and wear adult
hairstyles.
16
Braid with curled end: tomb of
"Nebamun," Arpag
Makhitarian,
La misere des tombes thebains
(Brussels:
Fonda-
tion
egyptologique
reine
Elisabeth, 1994), pl.
8
(boy);
tomb
of
Paheri, J. J. Tylor
and F. LI.
Griffith,
The Tomb
ofPaheri
at
ElKab
(London: Egypt Exploration
Fund, 1894), pl.
4
(boy),
pl.
10
(sex unclear,
no
inscription);
Boston MFA
1981.2,
Sue
D'Auria et
al.,
Mummies and
Magic (Boston:
Museum of Fine
Arts, 1988),
no. 80
(boy); Bologna
KS
1917,
Silvio Curto et
al.,
II Senso delVArte nelVantico
Egitto (Milan: Electa, 1990), 103,
105
no. 52
(boy);
statue of Senenmut and
Neferura, Janssen
and
Janssen, Growing up
in Ancient
Egypt,
127
fig.
45
(girl);
statue
of Benermerut and
Meritamun, Georges Legrain,
Statues et
statuettes de rois et de
particuliers
II
(Cairo:
Institut Francais
d'Archeologie Orientale, 1909),
no. 42171
(girl);
series of
braids/curls: TT
52,
Abdel Ghaffar Shedid and Matthias
Seidel,
Das Grab des Nacht
(Mainz
am Rhein:
Philipp
von Za-
bern, 1991),
60
(boy),
61
(girl);
tomb of "Nebamun,"
Nina
M.
Davies,
Ancient
Egyptian Paintings (Chicago: University
of
Chicago Press, 1936), pl.
65
(girl?);
Pierre
Lacau,
Steles du
Nouv el
Empire (Cairo:
Institut Francais
d'Archeologie
Orien-
tale, 1909),
no. 34095
(two girls); Ludwig Borchardt,
Statuen
und Statuetten von
Konigen
und Privatleuten im Museum von
Kairo
(Berlin: Reichsdruckerei, 1930),
no. 800
(girl);
Arielle
Kozloff and
Betsy Bryan, Egypt's Dazzling
Sun:
Amenhotep
III
and his World
(Cleveland:
The Cleveland Museum of
Art,
1992),
292
(boy).
For the
mummy
of a
boy, probably
a
prince,
with a shaven head and
long flowing sidelock,
see
Smith,
Royal
Mummies,
no. 61071.
14
E.g.,
TT
52,
Shedid and
Seidel,
Das Grab des
Nacht, 60;
TT
226,
Norman de Garis
Davies,
The Tombs
of Menkheperra-
sonb,
Amenmose and Another
(London: Egypt Exploration
So-
ciety, 1933), pl.
30E
(naked
with
earrings, boys);
tomb of
"Nebamun," Mekhitarian,
La
misere, pl.
8.
15
See n. 6.
58
JARCE
XXXVI
(1999)
are not shown
wearing jewelry,
not all
royal
and
elite children wear
jewelry
either in their
depic-
tions. Thus
images
of children that
clearly
mark
a
prepubescent stage
of life differ from adult
images
in that
they
are
only lightly
marked for
gender
and status.
Infant and childhood
mortality
were both
high
in ancient
Egypt,
as in most
pre-modern
societies.16 Burials of babies and
very young
chil-
dren tended to be
poor
in
content,
with old
jars,
baskets and chests reused as coffins. As
they
be-
came
older,
children seem
gradually
to have re-
ceived more elaborate burials with
purpose-made
coffins and an
increasing
amount of
funerary
equipment.
This trend
probably
reflects the fact
that as
they grow,
children
acquire
a
personality,
getting
to be
recognizable
as
individuals,
and be-
come
socialized,
gradually learning
to fulfil their
allotted role within the
family
and
eventually
in
society
as a whole. The more
integrated
into
family
and
society
a child has become
by
the time
of its
death,
the more care is
likely
to be taken
over its burial. Children who survived to reach
puberty,
the
age
when a
person
becomes
capable
of
reproduction,
would have left childhood be-
hind,
passing
into the next
stage
of life as an in-
tegrated
member of
society.
Puberty
marks a
point
when men and women
are
distinguished biologically
to a far
greater
de-
gree
than as children. For
boys, body
hair be-
comes more
prolific, growing
on the
chin,
under
the
arms,
and on the torso and
pubic region.
At
the same
time,
seminal emissions
begin
to occur
and
bring
the
possibility
of
fathering
children.
For
girls, body
hair
grows
under the arms and on
the
pubic triangle,
and menstruation
begins,
a
sign
that
conception
is now
possible.
Elite
adults,
unlike
children,
are not shown
nude,
for
only
non-elite adults are
unclothed,
and in adult-
hood,
nudity
carries a connotation of lack of
status.17 Not
only
are adults
clothed, however,
but the clothes
they
wear serve to mark the wearer
for
gender (figs. 1-3).
To reinforce the
message
conveyed by
clothes,
the
types
of
hairstyles
worn
from
puberty
onwards are also
strongly
marked
for
gender.
Gone are the unisex
styles
of child-
hood,
to be
replaced by
adult
styles appropriate
only
to men or to women.
Men
Adult
hairstyles,
therefore,
function both to
signal
a new life
stage,
and to
help
establish
gen-
der
identity.
In
art,
elite
men,
when
depicted
without a
wig,
and male household servants both
have shaven heads.18 The
former, however,
usu-
ally
cover their heads with
wigs,
which
may
be
elaborately
dressed,
but which do not come be-
low shoulder level.
By
contrast,
elite women and
female household servants are
represented
with
long
hair
falling
below the
shoulders,
often to
breast level. This difference in
length applies
also
to the
non-elite,
although they
are
distinguished
from the
elite,
in
part, by
their rather
unkempt
hair.
In addition to
distinguishing gender,
adult
male
hairstyles
also
helped
to
display
and rein-
force social status and hierarchies
among
men.
For elite
men,
the most
prestigious hairstyle
was
the
shoulder-length wig,
in which the hair is
often
elaborately arranged
in
strands,
curls or
braids.19 It is worn
by
the
high
officials who
owned tomb
chapels,
stelae and
statues,
as well
as
by
their
high-ranking
male
relatives,
including
16
Gay Robins,
"Women and Children in Peril:
Pregnancy,
Birth and Infant
Mortality
in Ancient
Egypt," KMT,
A Modern
Journal of
Ancient
Egypt
5 no. 5
(Winter 1994-95),
27-28. See
also
Lynn
Meskell,
"Dying Young:
The
Experience
of Death
at Deir el
Medina," Archaeological
Review
from Cambridge
1 3
(1994),
35-45.
17
Gay Robins, "Dress,
Undress and the
Representation
of
Fertility
and
Potency
in New
Kingdom Egyptian Art,"
in:
N.
Kampen (ed.), Sexuality
in Ancient Art
(Cambridge:
Cam-
bridge University Press, 1996),
27-40.
18
Figures
with shaven heads are often shown with a line
marking
the
boundary
between the face and the shaved
part
of the head. Sometimes the
upper part
of the head is the
same color as the rest of the skin and sometimes
paler,
perhaps
to indicate that this area was
normally protected
from the sun
by
a
wig.
In Old and Middle
Kingdom
art male
figures
are not shown with shaven heads but with a
cap
of
close-cut hair outlined and
painted
black. In line
drawings
where the
cap
of hair and the shaven head are both ren-
dered
by
outline
only,
the results often look
very
similar.
19
E.g.,
TT
38,
Nina
Davies,
Scenes
from
Some Theban Tombs
(Oxford:
Griffith
Institute, 1963), pls.
1-5
(all figures
of tomb
owner);
TT
39,
Norman de G.
Davies,
The Tomb
ofPuyemre
at
Thebes I- II
(New
York:
Metropolitan
Museum of
Art, 1922-
23);
TT
45,
Norman de Garis
Davies,
Seven Private Tombs at
Kurnah
(London: Egypt Exploration Society, 1948), pls. 2, 4;
TT
52,
Shedid and
Seidel,
Das Grab des
Nacht, 18, 34-35,
56-
57, 74,
77
(nine
out of ten
surviving figures
of tomb
owner);
TT
82,
Nina
Davies,
The Tomb
ofAmenemhet (No. 82) (London:
HAIR AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF IDENTITY IN ANCIENT EGYPT 59
Fig.
1. The tomb owner
Djeserkaraseneb
makes a ritual
offering followed by
his
wife
and son. Three more sons are shown in
the
upper register.
The other
figures
are not
labelled;
the two men in the middle
register may
be
servants,
and the three women
in the bottom
register
are
probably daughters.
TT
38, Davies,
Scenes from Some Theban
Tombs,
pl.
1.
Reproduced by
kind
permission of
the
Griffith
Institute.
their fathers.20 Adult
sons,
who were not
only
members of a
younger generation
but who were
also
likely
to be
junior
to their fathers in the
bureaucratic
hierarchy,
most
frequently appear
in their fathers' tomb
chapels
with either a
short,
round
wig
or a shaven head
(fig. 1).
One of the most common scene
types
from
tomb
chapels
shows the deceased
owner,
the
most
important figure
in the decorative
program,
seated before a table of
offerings;
one of his sons
or less often another male relative stands on the
other side of the
table,
performing
the
offering
ritual. This
figure
is
usually depicted
with a
round
wig
or shaven
head,
whereas the
chapel
owner
frequently
wears the
shoulder-length wig
(fig. 2).21
This difference in
hairstyle signifies
the relative status and roles of the
figures.
Be-
cause the
performer
of the ritual was
ideally
the
deceased's
son,
any
male who enacted the
part
also undertook a filial
(and
hence
junior)
role in
relationship
to the deceased. In other
words,
the
Egypt Exploration Society, 1915), pls. 4, 14, 24, 27, 35;
TT
100,
Norman de G.
Davies,
The Tomb
of
Rekh-mi-re at Thebes
(New
York:
Metropolitan
Museum of
Art, 1953), pls. 51, 63,
70, 73, 75, 77, 85, 95, 97,
103
(all surviving figures
of tomb
owner);
TT
343,
Heike
Guksch,
Das Grab des
Benja, gen.
Pa-
heqamen.
Theben Nr. 343
(Mainz
am Rhein:
Philipp
von Za-
bern, 1978), pls. 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 21, 24, 25 (all figures
of tomb
owner);
El
Kab, Tylor
and
Griffith,
The Tomb
of
Paheri at El
Kab, pls. 2, 4, 6, 9-10;
Kozloff and
Bryan, Egypt's Dazzling
Sun, 38, 40, 41,43-44,
47.
20
E.g.,
TT
82, Davies,
The Tomb
of Amenemhet, pl.
3
(vi-
zier), pl.
7
(father,
father's
father,
father's
mother,
wife's
father(?),
father of wife's
father(?),
brother of wife's fa-
ther(?));
TT
100, Davies,
The Tomb
of
Rekh-mi-re, pl.
109
(ban-
quet guests);
TT
181,
Norman de Garis
Davies,
The Tomb
of
Two
Sculptors
at Thebes
(New
York: The
Metropolitan
Museum
of
Art, 1925), pl.
5
(banquet guests), pl.
17
(father);
TT
343,
Guksch,
Das Grab des
Benja, frontispiece (father);
El
Kab,
Tylor
and
Griffith,
The Tomb
of Paheri, pl.
7
(father,
mother's
father)
.
21
E.g.,
TT
38, Davies,
Scenes
from
Some Theban
Tombs,
pl. 3;
TT
45, Davies,
Seven Private
Tombs, pl. 2;
TT
82, Davies,
The Tomb
of Amenemhet, pl. 35;
TT
100, Davies,
The Tomb
of
Rekh-mi-re,
pl.
70;
TT
112, Davies,
The Tombs
of Menkheper-
rasonb, pl. 24;
TT
343, Guksch,
Das Grab des
Benja, pl. 12;
El
Kab, Tylor
and
Griffith,
The Tomb
of
Paheri, pl.
6.
60
JARCE
XXXVI
(1999)
Fig.
2. The tomb owner Paheri and his
wife
Henuterneheh sit while their son
performs
the
offering
ritual
for
them. El
Kab,
Tylor
and
Griffith,
The Tomb of
Paheri,
pl.
6.
Reproduced by
kind
permission of
the
Egypt Exploration Society.
shoulder-length wig
establishes the senior status
of the
deceased,
while the round
wig
or shaven
head marks the
junior
status of the
performer
of the ritual. This
relationship
is also embodied
in the
posture
of the
participants:
visual and
textual evidence indicates that
sitting (here
the
position
of the
deceased)
was more
prestigious
than
standing
when it came to the conventions
of
hierarchy.22
The tomb
chapel
owner
may
not be the
only
recipient
of ritual in the
chapel.
Sometimes he
gives up
his
primary
status to honor his
parents,
in which case
they
are the ones shown
sitting
before the table of
offering,
while he stands to
perform
the ritual before them. The
identity
of
the tomb owner has therefore shifted from
being
the
recipient
to the enactor of the ritual. Inter-
estingly,
this new
identity
is often
accompanied
by
a
change
in
wig style:
while the seated father
wears the
shoulder-length wig,
the tomb owner
may
be
represented
with the short
wig
or shaven
head to mark his now
junior,
ritual role in rela-
tion to the senior
figure
of his father.23 In other
words,
ritual
context,
relative
status,
and hair are
all
highly
interrelated in this
performance.
The so-called round
wig,
which has a
long
his-
tory
in ancient
Egyptian
art,
is less restricted in
its use than the
shoulder-length wig (see fig.
2
right),
and in
many ways
it
appears
to be an
all-purpose
adult male
wig.
Sometimes it is worn
by
the tomb
chapel
owner
(instead
of the shoul-
der-length wig),24
as well as
by
his adult sons25
11
Miriam
Lichtheim,
Ancient
Egyptian
Literature II
(Berke-
ley,
Los
Angeles,
London:
University
of California
Press,
1976),
139.
23
E.g.,
TT
39, Davies,
The Tomb
of Puyemre, pl. 6;
TT
82,
Davies,
The Tomb
of Amenemhet, pl.
7
(owner
offers to se-
nior
family
members
including father,
father's father and
mother's
father);
TT
112, Davies,
The Tombs
of Menkheperra-
sonb, pl. 26;
TT
C4,
Lise
Manniche,
Los Tombs: A
Study of
Certain
Eighteenth Dynasty
Monuments in the Theban
Necropolis
(London
and New York:
KPI, 1988), pl.
27 no.
45;
Tylor
and
Griffith,
The Tomb
of Paheri, pl.
10.
^
E.g.,
TT
52,
Shedid and
Seidel,
Das Grab des
Nacht,
60
(1 example only);
TT
81,
E.
Dziobek,
Das Grab des Ineni The-
benNr. 81
(Mainz: Philipp
von
Zabern, 1992), pls. 2-3, 7, 17;
El
Kab, Tylor
and
Griffith,
The Tomb
of
Paheri, pls. 1,3-4,
8.
1
E.g.,
TT
181, Davies,
The Tomb
of
Two
Sculptors, pl. 5;
El
Kab, Tylor
and
Griffith,
The Tomb
of Paheri, pls. 6,
10
upper.
HAIR AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF IDENTITY IN ANCIENT EGYPT 61
Fig.
3. The tomb owner Rekhmira and his
wife
Merit are
offered
sistra and menit- necklaces
by
their
daughters.
TT
100, Davies,
The Tomb of
Rekh-mi-re,
pl.
63.
Reproduced by
kind
per-
mission
of
the
Metropolitan
Museum
of Art,
New York.
and other male relatives. In the first half of the
eighteenth dynasty
it is
depicted
on
figures
of
offering
bearers and various kinds of
priests.
By
the end of our
period,
however,
the
rep-
resentation of
priests changed
so that we find
them more often with a shaven head.
Shaving
the head solves the
problem
of
keeping
the hair
clean and free from headlice and their
eggs
(nits),
for lice do not infest
wigs.27
Therefore,
a shaven head
guaranteed
cleanliness and
per-
haps
became associated with ritual
purity,
so
that for a
priest
it
may
have encoded a
message
of ritual
purity
rather than strict social hierar-
chy.
Since
priests
were
government
officials and
part
of the bureaucratic
hierarchy,
their identi-
ties could shift between an official and a
priestly
one.
High-ranking priests,
therefore,
could com-
mission
images
with the
shoulder-length wig
to
indicate their
status,
or with a shaven head to
emphasize
their
priestly
function.28
Similarly,
when the tomb
chapel
owner is shown
per-
forming
a ritual
action,
the ritual context
-
and
26
E.g.,
TT
343, Guksch,
Das Grab des
Benja, pl.
13
(ban-
quet guests);
TT
100, Davies,
The Tomb
of Rekh-mi-re, pls.
66-
67
(banquet guests).
11
Fletcher, Egyptian Archaeology
5
(1994),
31-33.
Compare,
for
instance,
the statues of
Taitai, high priest
of Hebenu with a shaven head and
Anen,
second
prophet
of
Amun with a
shoulder-length wig,
Kozloff and
Bryan, Egypt's
Dazzling' Sun,
nos. 42-43.
62
JARCE
XXXVI
(1999)
hence his
proper
role vis-d-vis his
parents
and
deities
-
could be reinforced
by showing
him
with a shaven head.29
As
already
mentioned,
shaven heads are not
confined to the elite. In
fact,
it is the
only style
depicted
for indoor male servants and musi-
cians,
who are never shown
wearing wigs.30
This
may
relate to their
sphere
of work inside the
house,
since
they
would not need
protection
against
the
sun,
a
practical
benefit from
wearing
a
wig,
or it
may
indicate a concern with cleanli-
ness. It is even
tempting
to
suggest
a link between
the shaven heads of male household servants
who served the
elite,
and those of elite
priests
who served the
gods
and the dead.
In some
tombs,
male
guests
at
banquets
are
shown without
wigs
and with shaven
heads,
some-
times
alternating
with
guests wearing wigs.
Since
these
guests
must
belong
to the elite
class,
it is
possible
that we should understand them as
rep-
resenting
holders of
priestly
office,
or
simply
as
being
marked as inferior in status to the tomb
chapel
owner who wears a
wig.
However,
other
explanations
are
possible.
It
may
have been ac-
ceptable
to remove one's
wig
when indoors and
out of the sun.
Further,
the artist
may
have wished
to introduce variation
among
the male
guests by
mixing wigs
and shaven heads.
Two
particular types
of
priest,
the Iunmutef
priest31
and the
high priest
of Ptah at Mem-
phis,32
are associated with a
unique type
of hair-
style:
a round
wig
with the braided sidelock of a
child. The Iunmutef
priest performed
the ritual
in the
funerary
cults of the
king
and members of
the
royal family,
and sometimes in
private
funer-
ary
cults,
where he
played
the
part
of the de-
ceased's eldest son.
Thus,
the attached sidelock
identifies the filial role
adopted
for the
perfor-
mance of the
ritual,
whereas the
wig
denotes the
wearer's actual adult status. It is less clear
why
the
high priest
of Ptah should have worn a
braided
sidelock,
but he
may
likewise have been
regarded
as
playing
a filial role toward the
god
that he served.
It is
interesting
that the
only
male
figures
shown
wearing
their own hair are of non-elite
status:
mostly
laborers
working
outdoors in the
fields or
marshes,
and
occasionally workshop per-
sonnel. In some cases
they
are shown with heads
of
thick,
black
hair,33
but often
they appear
bald-
ing,
with
short,
unkempt
hair at the back.34 Un-
like the
wigs
of the
elite,
which are almost
always
black,35
this natural hair
may
be rendered as
reddish-brown36 or as
graying.37
In
addition,
non-
29
E.g,
TT
139,
Cyril
Aldred et
al., L'Empire
des
Conquerants
(Paris:
Editions
Gallimard, 1979), fig.
68.
30
E.g.,
TT
38, Davies,
Scenes
from
Some Theban
Tombs, pl. 6;
TT
52,
Shedid and
Seidel,
Das Grab des
Nacht, 46;
TT
79;
TT
80;
TT
82, Davies,
The Tomb
ofAmenemhet, pl. 15;
TT
85;
TT
100, Davies, The Tomb of Rekh-mi-re, pls. 66-67.
31
E.g.,
Kozloff and
Bryan, Egypt's Dazzling
Sun, 254
fig.
46b. For the
Iunmutef,
see Hermann Te
Velde, "Iunmutef,"
Lexikon der
Agyptologie
3
(1980),
212-13.
32
Kozloff and
Bryan, Egypt's Dazzling
Sun, 241 no. 37.
33
E.g.,
TT
52,
Shedid and
Seidel,
Das Grab des
Nacht,
38-
39;
TT
38, Davies,
Scenes
from
Some Theban
Tombs, pl. 2;
TT
69,
Davies,
Ancient
Egyptian Paintings, pls.
50-51.
E.g.,
outdoor laborers: TT
38, Davies,
Scenes
from
Some
Theban
Tombs, pl. 2;
TT
39, Davies,
The Tomb
ofPuyemre
I, pls.
12, 15;
TT
52,
Shedid and
Seidel,
Das Grab des
Nacht, 35, 39,
41, 57, 68-69, 71;
TT
69, Davies,
Ancient
Egyptian Paintings,
pl. 51;
TT
78,
Annelies and Artur
Brack,
Das Grab des Harem-
heb. Theben Nr. 78
(Mainz
am Rhein:
Philipp
von
Zabern,
1980), pl. 24;
TT
100, Davies,
The Tomb
of Rekh-mi-re, pls.
45-
46, 48, 50;
TT
261, Davies,
Ancient
Egyptian Paintings, pl. 28;
tomb of
"Nebamun," ibid., pl. 68; workshop personnel:
TT
39, Davies,
The Tomb
ofPuyemrel, pl. 23;
TT
100, Davies,
The
Tomb
of Rekh-mi-re, pls. 52, 54-55;
TT
181, Davies,
The Tomb
of
Two
Sculptors, pl.
13.
35
In the
art,
hair and
wigs
are almost
always represented
as black.
Surviving hair, however,
can be
black, Smith, Royal
Mummies,
nos.
61063, 61067;
brown to dark
brown, ibid.,
nos.
61057, 61066, 61069-70; reddish-brown, Smith, Royal
Mummies,
nos.
61080, 61097; Fletcher,
"A Tale of
Hair, Wigs
and
Lice," 32; or,
in older
mummies, gray, Smith, Royal
Mum-
mies,
nos.
61062, 61068-69, 61078-79,
61087. The embalm-
ing process may
have affected hair
color, Morimoto,
Ancient
Egyptian Mummies, 2.
Wigs
could also be made of brown
rather than black
hair, Fletcher,
"A Tale of
Hair, Wigs
and
Lice," 32. That brown hair was not
usually
shown in the art
may
be
purely
a matter of convention. Since human skin was
represented by
various shades of
brown, black,
rather than
brown, may
have been chosen as the conventional hair color
in order to
provide
a clear contrast between hair and skin.
The convention
may
have been
deliberately ignored
for
non-elite
figures
to
signal
their low status.
E.g.,
TT
69, Davies,
Ancient
Egyptian Paintings, pl. 51;
TT
78,
Brack and
Brack,
Das Grab des
Haremheb, pl. 24;
TT
82,
Arpag Mekhitarian,
Egyptian Painting (Geneva:
Editions d'Art
Albert
Skira, 1954, reprinted 1978), 42;
TT
261, Davies,
An-
cient
Egyptian Paintings, pl.
28.
37
TT
52,
Shedid and
Seidel,
Das Grab des
Nacht,
68-69.
HAIR AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF IDENTITY IN ANCIENT EGYPT 63
elite men sometimes
appear
with
straggly
beards
or stubble on their cheeks and
chins,38
in con-
trast to the clean-shaven faces of most male
Egyp-
tians or the
very
short,
square-cut
beard worn on
the
point
of the chin
by
some elite
figures.
These non-elite fashions are
dramatically
dif-
ferent from those conferred
upon images
of elite
men,
who are almost
always
shown with their
natural hair
removed,
or with it
replaced by
an
artificial
wig
constructed from the hair of an-
other
person.
Thus,
if
hairstyle
was
intimately
connected to
identity,
elite males
may
have been
rebuilding
their
identities,
overlaying
nature
by
culture.
By shaving
their heads and
wearing wigs,
they
were able to hide visible
signs
of
aging:
baldness or
gray
hair. The
wearing
of
wigs
also
indicates the
power
of the elite to command the
hair of others for their own use. The intricate
styling
of the
wigs,
with their
carefully arranged
strands,
curls and
braids,
shows that their wear-
ers had the resources to
acquire
and maintain
them. All this is in contrast to the
unkempt,
bald-
ing
and sometimes
graying
natural hair of the
non-elite laborer who worked closer to nature in
the fields and marshes and had none of the arti-
ficial
overlay
of
high
culture or elite status.
Although
household servants were not
part
of the elite
group, they
lived in the same homes
as the elite and hence shared the same
space.
Thus,
their
working
context removed them from
the natural world and
brought
them into elite
spheres. Although
their natural hair was re-
moved,
it was not
artificially replaced by
a
wig;
hence,
their
participation
in elite behavioral
pat-
terns went
only
so far. It is more difficult to
explain
why
some
workshop personnel
and
peasant
labor-
ers seem to have had shaven heads or round
wigs.
Possibly,
their heads were not
deliberately
shaven,
but were
naturally
bald,
while the structure of the
wigs
is not clear from the available visual
depic-
tions;
they may perhaps
have been
distinguished
from the
skilfully
made
wigs
of human hair worn
by
the elite
by poorer craftsmanship
or
by
the
materials
used,
such as animal hair or
vegetable
fiber.
Women
Female
hairstyles
differed
fundamentally
from
those of
men;
as
already
seen,
women wore their
hair
longer,
and are never shown with shaved
heads. Even when a
wig
was
worn,
the natural
hair remained
underneath,
as is demonstrated
by
some female statues on which the natural hair
is
represented emerging
from under the
wig
at
the forehead.39
Elite women wear
hairstyles equally
elaborate
as those of
men,
but
they
are
totally
different in
style
from male
wigs, reinforcing
the
gender
dis-
tinction inherent in
Egyptian society.
The most
striking
difference is in
length,
for while male
styles
at this
period rarely
reach below the shoul-
der,
women's hair
usually
falls to the level of the
breasts.
Further,
although
elite men
may
be
shown without their
wigs, revealing
their shaven
heads,
it is not clear how elite women wore their
hair under their
wigs.
Since a number of female
mummies have been found with
long
hair under-
neath
wigs,
while others were buried with their
own hair
elaborately
dressed,
it
may
be that in life
some women wore
wigs
over their own
long
hair,
whereas others wore their own hair
arranged
in
the
required style.
In either
case,
women would
not have been
protected against
lice.
Although
texts
provide relatively
little infor-
mation about
hair,
the available references
sug-
gest
that women's hair had erotic
significance,
helping
to mark women as icons of
sexuality
and
fertility.40
There are no
comparable
references
to
suggest
that male
sexuality
was linked to hair.
One
might posit,
therefore,
that
women,
in con-
trast to
men,
kept
their natural hair and
kept
it
long,
even if
they
wore a
wig
over
it,
because it
38
E.g.,
TT
39, Davies,
The Tomb
ofPuyemre, pls. 12, 15, 28;
TT
73,
Charles
Wilkinson, Egyptian
Wall
Paintings (New
York:
The
Metropolitan
Museum of
Art, 1983), 75;
TT
78,
Brack
and
Brack,
Das Grab des
Haremheb, pl. 24;
TT
100, Davies,
The
Tomb
of Rekh-mi-re, pls. 48, 58;
TT
181, Davies,
Tomb
of
Two
Sculptors, pl.
12
=
Mekhitarian,
Egyptian Painting,
125;
TT
261,
Davies,
Ancient
Egyptian Paintings, pl. 28;
Karl-Heinz Preise
(ed.), Agyptisches
Museum
(Mainz: Philipp
von
Zabern, 1991),
85 no. 52.
39
Kozloff and
Bryan, Egypt's
Dazzling Sun,
171.
40
Derchain,
"La
perruque
et le
cristal,"
Studien zur alt-
dgyptischen
Kultur2
(1975),
55-74.
64
JARCE
XXXVI
(1999)
more
directly
embodied their
sexuality
and hence
female
gender identity.41
The
mothers,
wives and
daughters
of tomb
chapel
owners are
usually depicted wearing
one
of two
general hairstyles:
the so-called
tripartite
style,
common in the first
part
of the
eighteenth
dynasty,
or the
enveloping style,
which
replaced
the
tripartite
in the second half of the
period.42
In
the first
style,
the hair is divided into three bun-
dles,
two
falling
on either side of the
face,
and one
down the
back,
leaving
the shoulders
exposed
(figs. 2-3).
In the
enveloping style,
the hair is ar-
ranged
in a
single
mass,
covering
the shoulders
(fig. 1).
Detailed
renderings
show the hair ar-
ranged
in masses of braids or
ringlets.
Daughters
of the elite
may
also be
depicted
with an alternative
tripartite style,
in which thick
tresses or
ringlets
frame the
face,
while a thin
bunch of hair at the
back,
like a
ponytail,
leaves
the rear
part
of the head more
exposed (fig. 3).43
Since this alternative
tripartite style
is not
gen-
erally
worn
by
wives, mothers,
or those
daughters
who are
specifically
called "mistress of the
house,"
a title that indicates a married
woman,
one
might imagine
that the
style
marked a
particular
stage
in a
young
woman's
life,
when she was no
longer
a child but still not married. This
hy-
pothesis
is
strengthened by representations
of
female household servants who share similar hair-
styles.44
While servants with the common tri-
partite
or
enveloping style
often wear an
opaque
dress,
those with the alternative
tripartite style
are
frequently represented
nude,45
or
wearing
a
transparent garment (figs.
4, 5).46 Although
we
know from indications of
pubic
hair that the lat-
ter
group
of women are
post-pubescent,47
their
bodies, nevertheless,
still
appear
to have the soft
flesh and
plumpness
of extreme
youth.
This evi-
dence
suggests,
therefore,
that different
hairstyles
may
have
distinguished
adolescent
girls
from
fully
adult
women,
and unmarried or
marriageable
girls
from married women.
Interestingly,
corre-
sponding
life
stages
do not seem to have been
marked on the male head.
Younger
female servants and musicians
may
also be shown with a
variety
of "non-standard"
hairstyles
that are
usually fairly elaborately
arranged.48
The erotic context of the
banquet
scenes in which
they
occur
suggests
that the
pur-
pose
is to
heighten
the
sexuality
of the wearers.
Some servants
waiting
on
guests,
however,
wear
short,
round
wigs
that end above the shoulder
(figs.
4, 5).
This
type
of
wig
can be found worn
by
elite women in the Old and Middle
Kingdoms
and
again
in the Late
Period,
but at the time un-
der
study,
the
style
seems to be confined to ser-
vants;
its
significance
is unclear.
In contrast to what
happens
with
men,
women's
hairstyles
and identities do not seem
to
change
from one social context to another.
Although
elite women
-
mostly
wives and
daugh-
ters
-
could,
like
men,
perform
rituals for the
deceased,
this
junior
role does not affect their
hairstyle.
Thus,
we do not find wives
wearing
the
more
junior
alternative
tripartite style,
in con-
trast to the
way
in which adult men took on
junior
hair
styles
in this context. In other
words,
elite
41
A female
mummy
found in the tomb of
Amenhotep
II
had hair that had been cut
very
short or had
perhaps
been
shaved, Smith, Royal Mummies,
no.
61072,
but this seems to
have been
exceptional.
Haynes,
"The
Development
of Women's
Hairstyles,"
18-24.
43
E.g.,
TT
38, Davies,
Scenes
from
Some Theban
Tombs, pl. 6;
TT
75,
Norman de Garis
Davies,
The Tombs
of
Two
Officials of
Tuthmosis the Fourth
(Nos.
75 and
90) (London: Egypt Explora-
tion
Society, 1923), pl. 14;
TT
100, Davies,
The Tomb
of
Rekh-
mi-re, pls. 70-71;
Kozloff and
Bryan, Egypt's Dazzling Sun, 286,
296.
E.g.,
TT
75, Davies,
The Tombs
of
Two
Officials, pl. 14;
TT
100, Davies,
The Tomb
of
Rekh-mi-re, pl.
63.
E.g., tripartite:
TT
100, Davies,
The Tomb
ofRekhmire, pls.
64-67;
enveloping:
TT
38, Davies,
Scenes
from
Some Theban
Tombs, pl. 6;
TT
75, Davies,
The Tombs
of
Two
Officials, pls. 5-6;
alternate
tripartite:
TT
22, Davies,
Ancient
Egyptian Paintings,
pl. 26;
TT
38, Davies,
Scenes
from
Some Theban
Tombs, pl. 6;
TT
45, Mekhitarian,
Egyptian Painting, 64;
TT
78,
Brack and
Brack,
Das Grab des
Haremheb, pl. 3;
TT
100, Davies,
The Tomb
of
Rekh-
mi-re, pls. 64-67;
tomb of
"Nebamun," Davies,
Ancient
Egyptian
Paintings, pl. 70; Manniche,
Lost
Tombs, pl.
46 nos. 65-66.
45
E.g.,
TT
38, Davies,
Scenes
from
Some Theban
Tombs, pl.
6.
46
E.g.,
TT
22, Davies,
Ancient
Egyptian Painting, pl. 26;
TT
100,
Kazimierz
Michalowski,
Art
of
Ancient
Egypt (New
York:
H. N.
Abrams, 1969),
93.
E.g.,
TT
38, Mekhitarian, Egyptian Painting, 67; idem,
La mis
ere, pl.
9.
48
E.g.,
TT
52,
Shedid and
Seidel,
Das Grab des
Nacht, 52;
tomb of
"Nebamun,"
Miriam
Stead, Egyptian Life (London:
British Museum
Publications, 1986), fig.
82
(lower register
and
upper register right;
the
figure
on the left in the
upper
register
wears a version of the alternative
tripartite style);
T. G. H.
James, Egyptian Painting (London:
British Museum
Publications, 1985),
cover
(dancing girls).
HAIR AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF IDENTITY IN ANCIENT EGYPT 65
Fig.
4. Part
of
a
banquet
scene
showing female guests,
musicians and servants. TT
100, Davies,
The Tomb of
Rekh-mi-re,
pl.
64.
Reproduced by
kind
permission of
the
Metropolitan
Museum
of
Art,
New York.
female
hairstyles appear
to define absolute
age
or social
status,
rather than relative hierarchies
that
may
shift with movement from one context
to another.
A scene in the tomb
chapel
of
Djeserkaraseneb
at Thebes illustrates this difference in
style
and
significance
between male and female
hairstyles
(fig. 1).
The
owner,
Djeserkaraseneb,
makes a
ritual
offering together
with his wife and son.
Behind this
group
are three
registers
of
figures
on a smaller scale: on
top,
three more sons
bring-
ing offerings;
in the
middle,
two servants run-
ning
with
offerings;
and at the
bottom,
three
female
figures (almost certainly daughters)
also
bringing offerings.
Most
important
here is the
uniformity
of
hairstyle among Djeserkaraseneb
's
four sons and servants
(in
contrast to
Djeser-
karaseneb's shoulder
length wig) compared
with
the differentiation of
styles among
his
daughters.
Two of his
daughters
wear the
enveloping
hair-
style,
which
they
share with his
wife,
but the third
daughter
wears the alternative
tripartite style.
This difference in hair
may
indicate a difference
in
age
and/ or marital status
among
the sisters.
A similar
relationship
between the female life
cycle
and
hairstyle may
be seen in a few tomb
chapels dating
to the
reign
of
Amenhotep
III.
In these
cases,
we find the mothers of the tomb
owners
wearing tripartite-style wigs,
which oth-
erwise were
by
now out of fashion.49
Although
uncommon,
the intention was
surely
to mark
these women as
belonging
to an older
genera-
tion than that of the tomb owner.
49
yx
45, Davies,
Seven Private
Tombs, pl. 2;
TT
55,
Norman
de Garis
Davies,
The Tomb
of
the Vizier Ramose
(London:
The
Egyptian Exploration Society, 1941), pls. 10, 11, 16;
TT
181,
Davies,
The Tomb
of
Two
Sculptors, pl.
17.
66
JARCE
XXXVI
(1999)
Fig.
5. Part
of
a
banquet
scene
showing female guests,
musicians and servants. TT
38, Davies,
Scenes from Some Theban
Tombs,
pl.
6.
Reproduced by
kind
permission of
the
Griffith
Institute.
As
already
discussed,
there is in the art a clear
distinction between the
hairstyles
of
high
male
officials and their male household servants.
By
contrast,
there is far less distinction between the
hairstyles
of elite women and their female house-
hold
servants,
although possibly only
elite women
wore
wigs
over their natural hair.
Wigs
would
have had the same social
significance
for women
as for men: to hide
thinning
and
graying
hair,
and to demonstrate the
ability
to
appropriate
the hair of others for one's own use. When elite
women wore their own hair
elaborately
dressed,
often with extensions to
give
extra
body,
this
added another level of
luxury:
it
implied
that
they
had the leisure to
expend
on
having
their
hair
groomed
and the resources to command an-
other's services for the task.
The differences in the treatment of the hair
throw some
light
on
gender ideologies
and hier-
archies current at this time. The
identity
and
status of elite men
depended mainly
on their
po-
sition in the
government bureaucracy;
on their
monuments,
men constructed their
identity
tex-
tually by listing
all their titles of office. In other
words,
men looked outside the home to fulfil
their
ambitions,
their concerns
being
centered
on the social structure of
government
order and
control.
Women,
by
contrast,
had few official ti-
HAIR AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF IDENTITY IN ANCIENT EGYPT 67
ties.
Instead,
their identities on monuments were
constructed in terms of their
kinship
to a man:
mwt.f
"his
mother,"
hmt.f
"his
wife,"
sBt.f
"his
daughter"
or
snt.f
"his female relative." These
kinship
terms were often followed
by
the most
common title
given
to
women,
nbt
pr
"mistress of
the
house,"
signifying
a married woman and de-
noting
her main
sphere
of
activity. Ideologically,
the concerns of women did not relate to
govern-
ment,
but to the natural
process
of
reproduc-
tion.50 In
art,
we find
generic images
of naked
women with
long
hair or
wigs being
used to en-
sure
conception
and safe birth into this
world,
and,
by
extension,
rebirth into the next.51 It
might
be that an
ideology
that stressed the role
of women in
reproduction
also saw women as
being
closer to nature than men and that this
was
expressed through
their unshaven heads and
long
hair.
Turning
now to non-elite women
working
out-
side the domestic
sphere,
we seldom find them
wearing any
of the basic
hairstyles
associated with
elite women and their servants.
Unfortunately
we
have fewer
depictions
of such non-elite women
than we do of
men,
since women are not in-
cluded
among
the
personnel
in
workshops
or as
laborers in the marshes.
Nevertheless,
women are
sometimes
present
in
agricultural
scenes,
mostly
at the harvest.
They present
a
range
of unelabo-
rated,
often
unkempt, hairstyles:
most
frequently,
tied back with the ends
falling
down the
back;52
but also
loose;53
in a few thick
ringlets;54
in
straightish
strands
ending
at chin
level;55
or in a
solid black mass cut off at the shoulders.56 Al-
though many
women no doubt
actually
worked
out of doors in the
fields,
the
prevailing ideology
seems to have held that outdoor work was to be
performed mostly by
men. In this
context,
women
working
in the fields almost
certainly
had a lower
status than household servants. This
hierarchy
becomes
expressed
on the
head;
while the house-
hold servants have the same
hairstyles
as the elite
women
they
served,
the female laborers are de-
picted
with their hair undressed and often un-
kempt.
Hair thus becomes a
way
to
distinguish
not
only
between rich and
poor,
but also between
different non-elite
groups.
Nevertheless,
basic
gender
distinctions are
generally
maintained at
all levels of
society through
differences in hair
length.
Although
women's roles were more limited
than those of
men,
women did sometimes have a
part
to
play
in certain ritual contexts. In scenes
depicting
the funeral
procession
of the tomb
chapel
owner,
two women
regularly
take on the
identities of the
goddesses
Isis and
Nephthys,
known as the "two
kites,"
who mourned the death
of their murdered brother
Osiris,
the
god
of the
dead,
and
brought
him back to life. In
many
de-
pictions
these women cover their head with the
Ma£-headdress,
made of white
cloth,
that is not
normally
worn
by
women,
but which is a fre-
quent
accoutrement of the
goddesses;57
the head-
dress was thus used to
identify
the women with
the
goddesses
in this
particular
context. Else-
where,
the women
playing
the two kites are shown
with a
cap
of short black hair that leaves the ear
uncovered,
and with a white fillet tied round the
head
(fig. 6)
.58 There is no evidence as to whether
the women's natural hair was cut for this occa-
sion or whether it was concealed under a
wig.
A
similar
hairstyle
is worn
by
the
god's
wife of
50
Gay Robins,
Women in Ancient
Egypt.
51
Gay Robins, "Dress,
Undress and the
Representation
of
Fertility
and
Potency
in New
Kingdom Egyptian Art,"
in:
N.
Kampen (ed.), Sexuality
in Ancient
Art;
Geraldine
Pinch,
"Childbirth and female
figurines
at Deir el-Medina and el-
Amarna," Orientaliab2 (1983),
405-14.
52
E.g.,
TT
52,
Shedid and
Seidel,
Das Grab des
Nacht, 35;
TT
57,
Walter
Wreszinski,
Atlas zur
Altaegyptischen Kulturge-
schichtel
(Leipzig: J.
C. Hinrichs'sche
Buchhandlung, 1923),
pl. 192;
TT
C4, Manniche,
Lost
Tombs, pl.
34 no.
56;
tomb
of
"Nebamun," ibid.,
pl.
49 no.
69; Mekhitarian,
La
misere,
pl.
24.
53
TT
69, Wilkinson, Egyptian
Wall
Paintings,
50 no. 49.
54
TT
52,
Shedid and
Seidel,
Das Grab des
Nacht,
frontis-
piece.
55
TT
6g? Mekhitarian, Egyptian Painting,
79.
56
TT
69> Wilkinson, Egyptian
Wall
Paintings,
49 no. 46.
57
E.g.,
TT
82, Davies,
The Tomb
of Amenemhet, pls. 10-11;
TT
100, Davies,
The Tomb
of
Rekh-
mi-re, pls.
83-84, 87-88,
92-93;
TT
C4, Manniche,
Lost
Tombs, pl.
34 no.
56, pl.
42
no. 62 [1]; El-Kab,
tomb of
Paheri, Tylor
and
Griffith,
The
Tomb
of Paheri, pl.
5.
58
E.g.,
TT
39, Davies,
Tomb
of Puyemre, pl. 46;
TT
82,
Davies,
The Tomb
of Amenemhat, pls. 10, 12;
TT
96,
Christiane
Desroches Noblecourt et
al.,
Sennefer.
Die Grabkammer des
Biirg-
ermeisters von Theben
(Mainz
am Rhein:
Philipp
von
Zabern,
1986), 30;
TT
100, Davies,
The Tomb
of
Rekh-mi-re, pls. 79-80;
TT
139,
Aldred et
al., L'Empire
des
Conquerants, fig.
68; Paheri,
Tylor
and
Griffith,
The Tomb
of
Paheri, pl.
5.
68 TARCE XXXVI
(1999)
Fig.
6. The two kites
engaged
in a ritual
performance
at the tomb owner's
funeral
TT
100, Davies,
The Tomb
of
Rekh-mi-re,
pi
79.
Reproduced by
kind
permission of
the
Metropolitan
Museum
of Art,
New York.
Amun,
one of the few female
priests
in the cult
of Amun at
Thebes,
when she is shown
per-
forming temple
rituals.59 Since short hair is not
a
style normally
associated with
eighteenth dy-
nasty
women,
its use seems
designed specifically
to mark the
performance
of a cultic role
by
a
woman and to shift her
identity
from a secular
to a
religious
one. This shift is also made visible
by
the continued use of the
traditional,
tight-
fitting
sheath
dress,
after
depictions
of women
in more secular contexts had
changed
to show
them
wearing
a
longer,
looser
wrap-around
dress.
Death
The final transformation of the social
identity
of both elite men and women occurred at
death,
when
they
made the
dangerous passage
from this
world to the next and took their
place
among the
blessed dead in the afterlife. Their new
identity
was
displayed through
the
images
on their cof-
fins. Once
again,
hair
plays
an
important
role
in this
process
of
identity
formation. Both men
and women are shown
wearing,
not the
hairstyles
of the
living,
but a
striated,
breast-length,
tri-
partite wig specifically
associated with
images
of
male and female deities.60 In
addition,
male cof-
fins sometimes
incorporated
the
long,
braided
false beard associated with Osiris as well as other
male deities.61 This last shift in
identity
trans-
formed the deceased into an idealized divine be-
ing proper
to an inhabitant of the next world.62
Conclusions
Depicted
adult
hairstyles clearly
divide be-
tween those
appropriate
to men and those
appro-
priate
to
women,
thus
reinforcing
the division
59
A.
Gayet,
Le
Temple
de Louxor
(Paris:
Mission arche-
ologique
francaise au
Caire, 1894), pl.
35
fig. 100,
pl.
51
fig.
125;
Pierre Lacau and Henri
Chevrier,
line
chapelle d'Hatshep-
sout a Karnak II
(Paris:
Institut Franc ais
d'Archeologie
Orien-
tale, 1979), pls.
18
top,
19 middle.
60
E.g.,
Kozloff and
Bryan, Egypt's Dazzling
Sun,
fig.
X.2a-b,
nos. 61-64
(coffins),
nos. 17-19
(deities).
61
E.g., ibid.,
no. 62.
62
J. Taylor, Egyptian Coffins (Aylesbury:
Shire Publica-
tions, 1989),
39.
HAIR AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF IDENTITY IN ANCIENT EGYPT 69
of
society by gender. Among
elite women who
have
passed
childhood,
hairstyles appear
to dif-
ferentiate between
younger, possibly
adolescent,
women and
older,
possibly
married,
women.
These
hairstyles
are shared with non-elite female
household
servants,
suggesting
that
age
rather
than social status is the
primary
information
imparted.
Women
working
outside the
house,
who are
certainly
of lower
status,
rarely
wear
these same
hairstyles,
so here social status rather
than
age may
be
important.
Among
elite
men,
increased social status came
with
promotion
in the
government bureaucracy.
At a certain
level,
officials seem to have become
eligible
to wear a form of the
shoulder-length
wig.
Unlike the
tripartite
and
enveloping wigs
of elite
women,
the
shoulder-length wig
is not
shared with non-elite servants.
Further,
within
a
composition,
the different
hairstyles
worn
by
the male
figures
often establish a relative hier-
archy
between
them,
with the
primary figure
wearing
the
shoulder-length wig
and
secondary
figures
the round
wig
or a shaven head. Such
relative hierarchies do not
commonly
occur with
female
figures,
where instead senior and
junior
women often both wear either the
tripartite
or
enveloping hairstyles.
In addition to the use of
hair to indicate social
status,
age,
and
gender
within the hierarchies of ancient
Egyptian
soci-
ety,
different
styles
were also
employed
to mark
figures playing
certain
religious
roles,
such as
the Iunmutef
priest
or the
god's
wife of Amun.
The evidence thus shows that the
hairstyles
depicted
in ancient
Egyptian
art were not
freely
selected
by
artists. Rather
they
formed
part
of a
visual
system
that was used to
help
construct and
display
the social identities of the
figures rep-
resented,
and so had to be
appropriate
to the
age, gender
and status of the wearers.
Although
scenes in tomb
chapels
were not intended to
reproduce exactly
the real
world,
but rather
represented
an elite
ideal,
the
system
of
identity
constructed in the art must have reflected a cor-
responding system
in life that defined the iden-
tity
of individuals and their
place
within
society.
Its
incorporation
into visual
representation
not
only
served to
convey
information to viewers
about the
figures depicted,
but
by
constant
rep-
etition reinforced what the elite
group
held to
be the correct social order.
Emory University