Hair comb - ROM2018_16556_5


Hair comb

Geography: Excavated at Diospolis Parva (Hu), Egypt
Date: c. 4000-3500 BC
Period: Naqada I (Amratian) Period, Predynastic Period
19.5 × 2.6 × 0.4 cm
Object number: 909.80.703
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

Humans have always smoothed and straightened their hair, first with their hands, but very early in Prehistory with tools as well. It is possible that fish bones or the like were the first “natural” combs. Bone and ivory became favourite materials to use as combs, as these materials are both hard and smooth, so the comb will not snag the hair. The comb with long teeth used to retain coils of hair developed very early in Egypt during the Predynastic Period. 

This type of smooth flat hair comb is characteristic of the Naqada I Period. These combs are usually decorated with profiles of animal figures at the top. This is a rare example topped by a serpentine or snake motif (6 cm long).  The head of the snake is missing. We should imagine that the snake would be seen as emerging out of the hair of the wearer.  Below the snake is a rectangular handle (7 x 2.4 cm) and below that the actual comb itself. There were originally five squarish prongs.  All have been broken off, but pieces of two prongs have been re-attached. The longest preserved prong is 5.5 cm in length These prongs would have anchored the comb securely within the wearer's hair.

Object History: Excavated by the Egypt Exploration Society, 1898-1899
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