Last month I spent in Egypt, working on The Amarna Project. This archaeological excavation is uncovering a cemetery from the site Tell el-Amarna, the place where pharaoh Akhenaten built his capital 3300 years ago.
The so-called North Tombs Cemetery (NTC, see image above for an impression of the location) that I worked on, is one of the six non-elite burial grounds in the wadis around Amarna. Here, 141 graves and 231 individuals have been recovered in the 2015 and 2017 excavation seasons. It is estimated that at least 3500 to even 5000 people may have been buried here. Many of these people were between the ages of 7 and 25 years old when they died.
Although the burials are very poor, with hardly any grave goods and wrapped in matting, a little less than a 100 of the individuals still had their hair preserved in the Egyptian dry desert sand. I have been studying the ancient hairstyles of these people in these past few weeks. The hair was carefully taken care of, the bodies often wrapped in linen for burial. It was apparently common to dress the hair of the young dead with small braids worn on both sides of the head.
The analysis of the ancient hairstyles was not limited to this cemetery however. Also the so-called South Tombs Cemetery human hair remains have been studied in the past five seasons. Some information about the STC hair has been presented elsewhere in this website. It was a great opportunity to finally be able to compare two different cemeteries this season. The STC proved to be a much richer burial ground than the NTC. It is therefore possible that in the NTC a poorer class of Egyptian society was buried. And, in addition to their social status - reflected for instance by grave goods and the presence of hair extensions in the STC - in the NTC the relative young age of the individuals provided us with a unique, isolated sample of hairstyles in Egyptian society. The images in this blog, will hopefully give you an impression of the attention that was given to hairdressing for the afterlife.
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