The remains of a 3,300-year-old woman who wore a complex hairstyle with 70 hair extensions was discovered in the ancient city of Armana. Credit: Photo by Jolanda Bos and Lonneke Beukenholdt

The remains of a 3,300-year-old woman who wore a complex hairstyle with 70 hair extensions was discovered in the ancient city of Armana.
Credit: Photo by Jolanda Bos and Lonneke Beukenholdt

Not only do we get it from our mamas, but apparently we also get it from our ancestors. A recent archeological project has revealed that Egyptian wore hair extensions over 3,300 years ago.

Archaeologists uncovered the remains of an Egyptian woman who was not mummified, but simply wrapped in a mat. A recently published article in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology described the discovered woman. “She wore a very complex coiffure with approximately 70 extensions fastened in different layers and heights on the head,” wrote Jolanda Bos, an archaeologist working on the major dig, the Amarna Project.

Bos also explained that braids were a popular style and they were held together by fat, although it’s not yet determined if it was animal fat. “All braids found in the coiffures were simple and of three strands, mostly 1 cm [0.4 inches] wide, with strands of approximately 0.5 cm [0.2 inches] when tightly braided,” Bos wrote. While most of skulls found wore shoulder-length hair, some skulls were found with brown hair often coiled around the ears and Bos is trying to determine the reasons for the difference.

While researchers don’t know the discovered woman’s name, age or occupation, she is one of hundreds of people, including many others whose hairstyles are still intact. They were buried in a cemetery near an ancient city now called Amarna.

It’s unclear if hair extensions were an everyday hairstyle or something that was done when women were buried. “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 LiveScience. “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.”

It would appear that the old saying is true and there’s really nothing new under the sun, not even hair extensions or braids. I can’t help but wish that there was an ancient Egyptian Beyoncé equivalent who told all the women in the audience to “pat your weaves, ladies.” Can you imagine the sight? Also, since it seems this might have been the norm for ancient Egyptian women, I wonder if they had to deal with annoyed men who wanted them to be proud of themselves and wear their “real” hair.

We’ll probably never know because I’m sure these aren’t crucial questions concerning the archaeologists. But if you’re a proud weave wearing woman, next time you encounter an angry dude complaining about all these Black women wearing hair weaves, just hip him to the fact that you’re honoring history. Then pat your weave and carry on.

Diana Veiga is a Spelman woman, a DC resident, and a freelance writer. Of course, she’s also on Twitter.

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  • Anthony

    Yep, there is nothing new at all!

  • ALM

    No, we couldn’t have gotten it from our moms….to hear the internet tell it, all Egyptian women looked like Sigourney Weaver.


  • WhatIThink

    We should not look at this in isolation. All forms of body adornment and beauty modification originated in Africa. Makeup, lipstick, hair color, cosmetics and so forth all originated in Africa. South Africa has the worlds oldest mine where they dug up red ochre to use as protection against the sun and for adding sparkle to their hair. Africans along the Nile Valley to this day still wear the same hair styles found in ancient Egypt, especially people like the Beja and other Africans in Sudan and Ethiopia, like around the Danakil basin.

    And across Africa, there are various people who weave things into their hair, including animal hair.

    And for sure none of these Africans were trying to look like Sigourney Weaver.