Nappy Hair on the Ancient Egyptians
Why change the color of history?
July 8, 2001
The mummies on display in the world's museums exhibit Caucasoid-looking hair in shades that stem from brown to blonde. These mummies include Pharaoh Seqenenre Tao of the 17th dynasty and the 19th dynasty's Rameses II. As one scholar put it: "The most common hair color, then as now, was a very dark brown, almost black color although natural auburn and even rather surprisingly blonde hair are also to be found."
early 1970s, the Czech anthropologist Eugen Strouhal examined
pre-dynastic Egyptian skulls at Cambridge University. He sent some
samples of the hair to the Institute of Anthropology at Charles
University, Prague, to be analyzed. The hair samples were described as
varying in texture from "wavy" to "curly" and in colour from "light
brown" to "black". Strouhal summarized the results of the analysis:
outline of the cross-sections of the hairs was flattened, with indices
ranging from 35 to 65. These peculiarities also show the Negroid
inference among the Badarians (pre-dynastic Egyptians)." The term "Negroid influence"
suggests intermixture, but as the table suggests this hair is more
"Negroid" than the San and the Zulu samples, currently the most
Negroid hair in existence!
In another study, hair samples from ten 18th-25th dynasty individuals produced an average index of 51! As far back as 1877, Dr. Pruner-Bey analyzed six ancient Egyptian hair samples. Their average index of 64.4 was similar to the Tasmanians who lie at the periphery of the African-haired populations(1).
of Italian anthropologists published their research in the Journal
of Human Evolution in 1972 and 1980. They measured two samples
consisting of 26 individuals from pre-dynastic, 12th dynasty and
18th dynasty mummies. They produced a mean index of 66.50. The
overall average of all four sets of ancient Egyptian hair samples
was 60.02. Sounds familiar . . ., just check the table!
Since microscopic analysis shows ancient Egyptian hair to be completely African, why does the hair look Caucasoid? Research has given us the answers. Hair is made of keratin protein. Keratin is composed of amino acid chains called polypeptides. In a hair, two such chains are called cross-chain polypeptides. These are held together by disulphide bonds. The bulk of the hair, the source of its strength and curl, is called the cortex. The hair shafts are made of a protective outer layer called the cuticle.
We are informed by Afro Hair - A Salon Book, that chemicals for bleaching, penning and straightening hair must reach the cortex to be effective. For hair to be permed or straightened the disulphide bonds in the cortex must be broken. The anthropologist Daniel Hardy writing in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, tells us that keratin is stable owing to disulphide bonds. However, when hair is exposed to harsh conditions it can lead to oxidation of protein molecules in the cortex, which leads to the alteration of hair texture, such as straightening.
British anthropologists, Brothwell and Spearman, have found evidence
of cortex keratin oxidation in ancient Egyptian hair. They held that
the mummification process was responsible, because of the strong
alkaline substance used. This resulted in the yellowing and browning
of hair as well as the straightening effect.
means that visual appearance of the hair on mummies cannot disguise
their racial affinities. The presence of blonde and brown hair on
ancient Egyptian mummies has nothing to do with their racial
identity and everything to do with mummification and the passage of
time. As the studies have shown, when you put the evidence under a
microscope the truth comes out. At last, Egyptology's prayers have
been answered. It has been put out of its misery.
tombstone reads Egyptology, R.I.P June 2001.
and wig-box found in an Egyptian tomb
Egyptian wig is made of human hair attached to a net.
Dynasty Egypt (The Same Dynasty of Moses & Abraham)
border: "The above is a photograph of an Egyptian wig for a lady, in the
style of the 18th dynasty, B.C. 1400, and also a wig-box made of kash or
writing reeds, discovered in a tomb at Thebes. The excellent state of
preservation in which these two objects were found is wonderful." (New
York Public Library).
misconception that all hair turns red over archaeological timescales has
found its way into archaeological folklore. Whilst certain environments
such as those producing bog bodies are known to yield hair of a
red-brown color, in part because of the breakdown of organic matter and
presence of humic acids which impart a brown color to recovered remains,
it has commonly been assumed that this happens to all archaeological
hair. This concept has been perpetuated by popular nicknames such as
"Ginger"--affectionately given to the Pre-dynastic burial with red hair
on display in the mummy rooms at the British Museum.
Hair Coloring in Africa (Henna in Ancient Egypt)
reports that the mummy of Henttimehu own hair had been dyed a bright red
at the sides, probably with henna.
G. Elliott Smith, The Royal Mummies, Duckworth Publishing; (September,
1334-1325 BC (18th Dynasty, Egypt)
Dynasty Egypt (The Same Dynasty of Moses & Abraham)
knee on the ground and the other up and forward in a kneeling position.
Her arms are raised before her in prayer. She wears a Nubian wig often
seen on Amarna's royal women.
Image and text from the book Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, by Zahi Hawass, National Geographic, 2005.