Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Did Cleopatra Wear a Wig?

Cleopatra was Greek, so no surprise
her busts depicted her in the
Hellenistic fashion of the day.
     According to busts carved during her lifetime, Cleopatra wore her hair in the Greek fashion—long hair wound up in a bun in the back. She was, of course, the last in her dynasty of Greek rulers, so it’s not surprising she preferred to emphasize her Greek roots. 
      But outside of mostly Greek Alexandria, it’s highly likely that Cleopatra donned the ornate ceremonial wigs we associate with Egypt—thick plaited wigs adorned with gold, turquoise, and carnelian or topped with a uraeus (snake) diadem. She also likely wore wigs during religious ceremonies and other official affairs of state. 
Geez, did the ancient
Egyptians invent everything
--even the mullet???
      But dear gods, did she wear this bouffant-style-double-wig monstrosity on the left that can only be described as an ancient “mullet?”
      Thankfully, probably not. Why? Because this particular disco-style wig was found in an 11th Dynasty tomb, a full 2000 years before Cleo was even a gleam in her daddy's eye. Still, it must have been a prized possession because it was carefully placed beside the mummy for easy access in the afterworld.
      The ancient Egyptians also invented the fine art of hair extensions and weaves long before Cleopatra came to the throne.  How do we know? Mummies have also been found with false hair woven into real locks, anticipating the Hollywood weave by thousands of years.
      Cleopatra likely took advantage of all the beauty secrets ancient Egyptians invented. But one thing is for sure, with all the options available to her, she probably never had a bad hair day (except, of course, if she went with the mullet).
     For more fun and funny information about Cleopatra, see my recently released biography: Cleopatra Rules! That Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen.


Elizabeth O Dulemba said...

Fantastic post!!! Ancient mullets - ee gads!

Jessica said...

This is great! I love all these neat little facts about Ancient fashion tastes.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Thanks guys! And thanks for Jessica for stopping by and posting!

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

The wig isn't anything like the stick straight styles we usually associate with Egypt. Awesome post!

vicki leon, historical detective said...

Vicky, I really love the meticulous way you differentiate the relative eras of Egyptian hairdos and much more value foro the reader, since Egyptian hair styles, real and fake, are often separated by hundreds if not thousands of years. What did you think of the hair and wigs given to Cleopatra VII in the HBO Rome series? I did not know if they were anachronistic but I certainly thought that many captured the spirit of the times. You?