Hairstyles and Headgear

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Hairstyles and Headgear


Hair Care. People at all levels of ancient Mesopotamian society anointed their bodies and hair with oil. It softened the skin, which became easily irritated and chapped by the dry atmosphere, and destroyed vermin in the hair.


The Royal Cemetery of Ur, which was excavated by Sir Leonard Woolley in the late 1920s, is a valuable source of information on Mesopotamian jewelry of the Early Dynastic period. Some of the most impressive objects were found in the tomb of queen Pu-abi (circa 2500 b.c.e.). She wore an elaborate headdress of long gold ribbons, wreaths of gold, carnelian, and lapis-lazuli beads, and a gold hair comb tipped with golden rosettes. Large gold crescent-shaped earrings were woven into her hair or wig near her ears. Fifty strands of strung carnelian, agate, lapis lazuli, silver, and gold beads may have been decorations on a cape. Around her waist was a broad belt of gold, carnelian, and lapis-lazuli beads. She wore ten gold rings on her fingers. Three lapis lazuli cylinder seals, one with the queen’s name on it, lay near her body. Pu-abi went to eternity surrounded by attendants, grooms, and guards. Ten of the women, all wearing elaborate gold headdresses, earrings, and necklaces, may have been singers and musicians.

Source: Richard L. Zettler and Lee Horne, eds., Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 1998).

Third Millennium b.c.e. Hairstyles. Artworks from the Early Dynastic period (circa 2900 - circa 2340 b.c.e.) often show men with their heads shaved, but some are depicted with long hair. Women wore their

hair long, braided and piled on top of the head, with either a net or scarf to hold the hair in place, and a pleated headdress. They also wore jewelry in their hair. Sometimes women wore wigs.

Late Third through Mid-Second Millenia b.c.e.. In the Akkadian, Neo-Sumerian, and Old Babylonian periods, men were either shaved bald or wore their hair and beards carefully waved. A woman often wore her hair in a large bun that reached from the top of the head to the nape of the neck. Women also decorated their hair with bands, hairnets, and hairpins.

First Millennium b.c.e.. Assyrian reliefs show most men with full beards and mustaches waved and curled at the ends. Some men are depicted beardless and may be eunuchs. Priests, doctors, and slaves wore distinctive hairstyles. A potion and an incantation were used to treat graying hair. Gods, royalty, soldiers, and religious personnel wore headdresses indicating their status or ritual functions.


Dominique Collon, “Clothing and Grooming in Ancient Western Asia,” in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, 4 volumes, edited by Jack M. Sasson (New York: Scribners, 1995), I: 503–515.

Georges Contenau, Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria, translated by K. R. and A. R. Maxwell-Hyslop (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1954).

J. N. Postgate, Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History (London & New York: Routledge, 1992).