View Full Version : Hair Taping in Ancient Rome (or, That's No Wig, Mr. Archaeologist)

February 9th, 2013, 02:51 AM
I think you guys will get a kick out of this article in the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424127887324900204578286272195339456-lMyQjAxMTAzMDAwNzEwNDcyWj.html). Janet Stephens, a professional hair stylist in Baltimore, researches the construction of hair styles portrayed in the art of ancient Rome, and had her findings published in the Journal of Roman Archaeology in 2008. Pretty cool!

February 9th, 2013, 03:46 AM
Hehe, I came across the same article yesterday and linked it in our thread Hair...sewing? ( http://forums.longhaircommunity.com/showthread.php?t=110263&p=2386236). It's fascinating, isn't it? I just think it's cool that it's the same person who was featured on io9 for "decoding" the Vestal Virgin hairstyle that's been tried around here a few times.

February 9th, 2013, 08:14 AM
That's interesting.

February 9th, 2013, 08:43 AM
She's got some cool YouTube videos that have floated around on the LHC, e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4P2ZO6YEKs. Looks like the WSJ is just catching up to us. ;)

February 10th, 2013, 04:52 AM
It's great to see her work getting more recognition, she is a talented lady and I always get excited when I see she has a new video up.

I haven't read her paper (since graduating uni I've lost access to the JOA :() but I'm not entirely sure I agree with the idea that every woman was sewing her hair (this is the impression I get from her videos. Most of the styles she covers are being worn by Empresses, women who would have had a team of hairdressers, women lower down the social scale wouldn't necessarily have been able to afford that luxury and it's highly likely they would have turned to wigs. Not every woman would have had the hair required for some of these styles either.

Additionally I am an archaeologist and I have seen very few bone needles like the ones she uses in the archaeological record, but there an awful lot of simple bone pins floating around. And given that Romans used brooches to secure their clothing I agree with the idea that these pins were used for hair. I tried one out once, they are essentially short hairsticks. And there are many that are highly decorated and/or made of precious/semi-precious materials which again suggests that they were used for personal ornamentation. Also there are is a lot of sculptural and pictorial evidence for these pins being used in the hair (mummy portraits, gravestones etc.)

TL DR: I agree that some women did sew their hair but I believe that it wasn't very widespread and was possibly largely limited to the upper classes.

I'd love to know what sources she's used that say Vestal Virgin hair was made of 6 braids, I'm positive that all the few texts I've read that discuss Roman hair styling referred to the style being made of 7 braids. I did comment on her video asking that and she never replied.

February 10th, 2013, 06:13 AM
Very cool article, thanks for sharing! :)

February 10th, 2013, 07:23 AM
TL DR: I agree that some women did sew their hair but I believe that it wasn't very widespread and was possibly largely limited to the upper classes.

I tend to agree with you. Frankly, wigs are a lot less trouble, so long as you don't have to do manual labor while wearing them, since you don't have to disassemble the hair style on a regular basis. However, I love the fact that this woman is actually doing original research to figure out how they might have constructed these styles (because I was always baffled by the "How did they DO that?" question).