Razor - ROM2018_16226_4



Geography: Egypt
Date: c. 1550-1295 BC
Period: 18th Dynasty, New Kingdom
17.1 × 1.8 × 0.2 cm
Object number: 909.80.271
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

Delicate knives like this one have been found in tombs, in the cosmetic boxes of both men and women along with more heavy duty razors called mecheq.  The thin razors are labelled dega.  In tomb pictures from the 18th Dynasty, the heavier razors can be seen shaving the heads of recruits, but no pictures seem to show the dega in action.  Is this because it was used for more intimate, personal shaving?

Ancient Egyptians considered shaving of the body hair to be necessary for ritual purity, and perhaps also for general cleanliness. Lice and fleas tormented the ancient folks as much as they do modern people.  In a world without running water, a dega razor may have been an essential tool for personal hygiene.

Dr. Nicholas Millet, the late Curator of this museum, offered the suggestion that the dega razor was a multi-purpose utensil.  He suggested that the short, slender blade would have been ideal for trimming fingernails, and the hook could have kept the nails clean, while the blunt end pushed back the cuticle.  With no images from tombs and no written descriptions, all we can do is speculate.


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