Scalp with human hair

This human scalp was found under a wig of long black hair, some remnant of the dark haired wig are still present in the form of a plait. The body itself is sadly lost, as it was either not mummified or very poorly mummified. Upon modern discovery, it seemed this body had been completely dried instead of put through the mummification process, and sadly left nothing but dust to be found.

Within the book “Kahun, Gurob, and Hawara” published in 1890, Petrie wrote that he considered the hair colour to be natural, as he felt the body was not mummified and there was no reason for the hair to change in death. He also figured somebody going to such effort to dye their hair just to wear a wig made little sense.

Scalp with human hair. Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London. UC.30139
Scalp with human hair

Petrie pondered the idea that the person could have been a foreigner, and that possibly the person wore a black wig to hide this or simply because it was the fashion of the time. However, due to thScalp with human hair. Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London. UC.30139e body no longer remaining this is hard to decipher, with advancements in science, perhaps future testing and analysis may begin to tell us something more.

In ancient Egypt, it was common for both men and women to wear wigs as a part of their daily attire. Wigs served practical and aesthetic purposes, protecting the head from the sun and providing a fashionable appearance. Underneath the wigs, individuals would typically wear a cap or a net to secure the wig in place.

As for the hair underneath the wig, it varied depending on personal preference and societal norms. Some individuals would shave their heads entirely to ensure a smooth fit for the wig, while others would keep their natural hair and style it accordingly. In cases where the natural hair was kept, it would often be braided or styled in a way that allowed for a comfortable and secure fit of the wig.

The use of wigs allowed for versatility in hairstyles and provided an opportunity for individuals to express their social status, fashion sense, and personal style. Wigs were commonly made from human hair, animal hair, or plant fibers, and they were often adorned with various accessories and embellishments to enhance their appearance.

New Kingdom, 18th-19th Dynasty, c. 1550-1190 B.C.
Medinet Gurob, Tomb 23.
The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London. UC.30139