25,000 years ago the world was heading towards the end of the Ice Age. Africa, Asia and America were already populated. The African territory was still a dry tundra, and Europe and Asia were pretty much colder than today. Our actual homo sapiens shared his territory with the Man of Neanderthal, and with animal species extinct today, like mammoths, or saber-toothed tigers. The human being was still a hunter-gatherer, but he already developed a high capacity of abstraction, representation of symbols, and the concept of beauty of forms. The image at the left was found in Brassempouy, Landes, French Aquitaine, and it' was made with ivory from mammoth bones. It's called "Lady with the Hood ", though what it has on the head could also be a representation of hair. Anyway it has a short cut hair and intentionally groomed. The image at the right > is the Venus of Willendorf, and it was found in that location in South West Austria. It doesn't show a visible face, although it seems that the head is looking down. Its head, either representing a hood or hair, it's also intentionally groomed and ornate.

Amongst the most ancient objects that archaeologists have found in their excavations, are combs. Made of bone, wood, horns and antlers, of ivory or fish bones, from the most remote antiquity they testify the interest of the people for grooming their hair. Here is an exhibition of ancient combs:

THE HAIR IN OLD CIVILIZATIONS:

It can be said that Sumer, which populated what is called Mesopotamia, between rivers Tigris and Euphrates, and actually is the territory of Iraq, was the cradle of mankind's civilization. It's the most ancient known civilization. It lasted from the year 6.000 BC until 2000 BC, when they were succeeded by the Akkadians, and later by the Babylonians. Sumerians invented the wheel, the writing, the clock with the sexagesimal number system, calculation based on arithmetic and geometry, the beer, and the agriculture with organized cultivation systems. Testimonies of this civilization are the large number of tables written in Cuneiform scripture and many graphic representations and sculptures. They didn't call themselves "Sumerians"; it was the name given later by the Akkadians; they named themselves "ag-giga", which means "the black-headed people ", that's why it's assumed that it was the color of their hair. Black hair was always the appearance of Sumerians, even that of their successors. In the first period men used to shave head s and beards, and women used long hair bonded in chignons. Noble Sumerian women used to colorize their hair with golden dyes, using silver or golden combs. After the 2nd millennium BC, due to the Akkadians' Semitic influence, men started to trim their beards in a square-shape, and later they start to weave and curl head hair and beards. Women continued using long hair, using small cones with aromatic scents into the hair to be perfumed the whole day. It's on the Babylonian period when the henna is started to be used; henna is an aromatic substance obtained from a plant, Lawsonia Inermis, which was prepared drying and smashing the leaves of the shrub, and mixed with water, until a paste is formed. The dye obtained in that way varies from orange to deep red-brown shades. Henna was believed to have magical properties (to ward-off evil spirits) and a medicinal use (as an anti-fungal treatment on the skin).

 

"Our bodies, to every hair and shred of skin, are received from our parents. We must not presume to injure or to wound them. This is the beginning of filial piety. When we have established our character by the practice of this filial course, so as to make our name famous in future ages and thereby glorify our parents, this is the end of filial piety."

Confucius, (551-470 BC)

China is one of the most ancient civilizations of the world. They were the first people who used the writing and they invented the paper. There are Chinese written records from 1700 BC of the Shang Dynasty.

Deeply influenced by Confucianism, Chinese culture shows in every one of its expressions and costumes the thought of this philosophy.

Their styles of hair ornaments are from the earliest times one of the most beautiful in the world. Chinese culture has given increasing importance to the arrangement of hair along its history and a strong symbolic meaning, the form of use or haircuts or hairstyles always marked social or civil status, religion or profession. No hair care arrangement for them is a sign of disease or depression. As China is a conglomeration of peoples and ethnic groups, there are so many styles and regional customs.

THE QUEUE ORDER

Before the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), men used to comb their hair backwards and to shave their foreheads. It was the costume of the Han ethnic group, who was –and still they are- a 98% of the Chinese population. The Qing Dynasty, in the 17th century, from Manchu origin, (Manchuria represents an ethnic minority) after they overthrew the Ming Dynasty, imposed as mandatory their own hairstyle, under penalty of execution as treason to whom did not obey the order. The hairstyle consisted of the hair on the front of the head being shaved off above the temples and the rest of the hair braided into a long ponytail, or queue. This law was the reason for blooding rebellions and internal fights, because it was strongly resisted by the whole population. The intention of the order was to publicly demonstrate submission to the Qing Emperor.  As the Manchu Dynasty lasted for 3 centuries, the hairstyle was imposed along the entire kingdom. Finally, in 1922, the last emperor trimmed his queue as a symbol of changing habits.

Manchu women are renowned as "women with golden head and heavenly feet". The way they dress and gear their heads is considered one of the most beautiful and elegant in the entire world. The Manchu minority ruled from 17th century to 20th century in China. Girls use a single pigtail hanging behind, sometimes with gold or silver jewelry fastened on the tip. Manchu women use fresh flowers, usually pressed with a hairpin made of gold, silver or emerald.

HAIR AND MARITAL STATUS

This is an old tradition with origin in Fuzhou, in Southern China. Single women, or yimei, arranged their hair in a plait, while married women, or yisao, use a bun tied in the top of the head. Likewise, it was a generalized costume in China that widow women, who didn’t want to marry again, shaved their heads as a sign of indifference. According with Confucianism, to cut the hair in that way is a mutilation and a disfiguration of the image.

 

BUYAO

A buyao is a hairpin adorned with movable flower branch-shaped pendants. It would constantly shake with the wearer's steps, hence the name "buyao", which means "shake as you go". Most buyaos were made of gold, adorned with pearls and jade.

 

HUMAN HAIR EMBROIDERIES

This technique, a very special Chinese tradition, comes from the Tang Dynasty, at the 7th century. It is a special needle-work of making patterns on silk with human hair as the thread. As Chinese hair is mostly black, that’s the monochromatic color predominating in these works, although sometimes they use to dye the hair to give a variation to the embroidery. These kinds of works are considered in China a valuable gift and an excellent piece of collection.

 

 

 

GAOSHAN HAIR DANCE

CEDRELA

This plant was used since long time ago in China to wash the hair. According with the tradition, the cedrela, which is a perennial plant of the family meliaceae, a lightweight fragrant wood, was believed to stimulate the hair’s growing. What is true is that this plant, used currently to make cigar boxes, has volatile oils which keep insects far away, and it’s very resistant to biologic attacks.

 

 

<Yami women of the ethnic minority Gaoshan, of Taiwan, dance shaking their heads and swinging their hair while singing and swaying themselves. They don’t stop until their hair touches the ground. Their dance is a sign of primitive strength, optimism and courage .

At the South West of China, in the province of Guizhou, is located the city of  Soga, where live the women of the Long Horn Miao Tribe. The huge headgears they use, as a costume inherited from centuries, are a mix of natural and artificial hair.

 

ETHNIC GROUPS IN INDIA

According with their hair types, it's possible to classify several ethnic groups in India. This classification is not conclusive, but basic, because they were mixing with each other along the History.

The first people who arrived to India were Negroids, from Africa, of black skin and curly hair, of melanoderma or African type. Later arrived the Australoids, of brown skin and more elongated heads, with a similar hair type. Mongoloids settled in the North East, near Nepal, and had yellow skin, slanting eyes and xantoderm type of hair (of black color, straight and stiff). The Dravidians, came from Asia Minor, and populated South India; they were of low stature and bronzed skin; the last group to arrive, in 1500 BC, were the Aryans, of Caucasoid type, who in successive ethnic blends formed the Indo-Aryans.

INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION

In 1922, when Sir John Marshall, a British archaeologist who worked in India, unearthed in Pakistan the city of Mohenjo-Daro, were known the remains of the Indus Valley civilization, a culture more than 25 centuries older than the Christian era. Between the archaeological finds, -statues and pottery made of clay and terra-cotta-, they found figures splendidly ornamented with gold, silver, ivory and gem stones, and with a huge variation of hairstyles. In general, hair care was a common practice and hair dressing, in both men and women, was elaborated with elegance and dedication. This civilization was founded by the Dravidians, people coming from Asia Minor, and who arrived to the sub-continent before the Indo-Aryans.

VEDIC PERIOD

With the arrival of the Aryans, in the 15th century BC, the Indus Valley civilization comes to the end and starts the Vedic Period, when the first sacred texts written in Sanskrit appear. It's into this period when the caste-system is installed. Costumes change, and also the ways of grooming the hair, even by difference between castes. The Vedas prescribed that every Indian should use the hair cut in form of sikha, which is equivalent to shave the whole head, leaving a lock of hair at the back or at the side. The sacred texts say that "Sikha allows God to pull people to Heaven "... Over time, this kind of haircut will be worn only by the Brahmins, the priests' caste. The rest of the people will use long hair, and upper caste women will use ornaments with jewels and gem stones in the forehead. The Buddhism flourishes in the Late Vedic Period; circa 537 BC, Gautama Buddha gives its revelation. This is the golden age of the Indian thought. The Vedic Period, from where many costumes and sacred precepts were inherited, ends approximately in the 6th century BC, with the invasion in wide sections of India of Darius the Great of Persia and the conquest of Alexander the Great and the Macedonian-Greeks in 326 BC.

PERIOD OF GRECO-BUDDHIST CULTURE

All the aesthetic style of India undergoes a transformation with the arrival of the Greeks in their territory and the formation of Hellenistic kingdoms. Alexander the Great conquered the Punjab, and in the year 205 BC Demetrious the Invincible founded the Indo-Greek kingdom in parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Northern India. The period of Greco-Buddhist culture ranged from the V century BC to the 7th century of the Christian Era. This culture shined especially in the Gandhara area, in which today is Pakistan, and spread throughout India. Transformations in costumes, dressing, hairstyles, painting and sculpture, were very important at that time. Classical Greek style prevailed in all aesthetic manifestations. In this period, approximately in the 1st century of the Christian Age, were produced the first anthropomorphic representations of Buddha. Before this period, Buddha was shown only through sacred symbols: the empty throne, the wheel, or the footprints. Figures of Buddha, in sculptures and reliefs, show a classical Greek figure, which is prevalent today, with wavy hair and a bun in the head crown, at the style of Apollo of the Belvedere. All this stylistic form, profoundly influenced by the Greek culture, will decrease in successive centuries: shapes will be less realistic and more symbolic, but the printing and the stamp of the style will remain by centuries until today. In the right image we can see one of the figures of Buddha, from Gandhara, of the 1st century. In the left image, a statue from Gandhara of the same age clearly shows the Indo-Greek syncretism.

It's the ceremony in which the babies' hair is almost totally removed, leaving a tuft in the crown of the head, when they are three years old. It's a sacred precept of Hinduism, a Samskāram, one of the 16 sacred rites of Vedas. Its signification is that the baby's hair is dragging undesirable traits from former lives and must be removed for it may grow clean and purified. It's also considered the freedom of the total dependence of his mother, and the beginning of a new age in which the baby starts to feed by himself. Father, mother and son take a sit around the fireplace and while the baby's head is shaved, the father prays mantras, offering the shorn hair to the Gods. This rite has more than 4,000 years of practice and is absolutely respected in India still today.

The ways to make the rite and the ceremony have several variations according to different regions and costumes.

 

 

Within this period, there were different kingdoms with their own characteristics, like the GUPTA EMPIRE, in which the aesthetic was less Greek-classic, showing more personal and symbolic forms. This period was called The Indian Golden Age; arts and sciences flourished, they introduced the Decimal Numeral System and the number zero. This period extended from the year 320 until 550.

Even in the top of Indo-Greek culture, hairstyles were worn with simple braids or curly hair. In this period both men and women heads became opulently ornamented. Men in general used long hair shoulders-length, also wearing hair bands.

The most remarkable aspect in women hairstyles in this period was that, as much the women of high class as those of low social condition were using the same haircuts and hair dresses. In general the hair was cut short, and if they used long hair, it was tied in a bun at the side of the head or on the nape. They also used hair bands, embroided or ornamented according with the social condition.

 

PRODUCTS USED FOR THE HAIR ACCORDING TO THE FORMER AYURVEDA TRADITION:

Ayurveda is a system of traditional medicine, the natural medicinal system of India; it has more than 4,000 years of existence.

COCONUT OIL : It's one of the best natural nutrients for hair. Rich in lauric acid, it has bactericidal and anti-fungal properties and it's used to prevent dandruff and lice. It softens and moisturizes the hair and stimulates its growing. It helps to restore damaged tips. In addition, it's a nervous system relaxant.

ALMOND OIL : It contains a 25% of Vitamin E and monounsaturated fats. Softens and strengths hair. It washes deeply the hair and the scalp. In Ayurveda texts is cited as a brain stimulant, empowering intellectual level and intelligence.

HONEY BEE : Honey is also a rich nutrient and has bactericidal properties. It's an excellent hair conditioning, providing shine and humidity to dry hair. Ayurveda texts recommended to use it mixed with cinnamon. It's also used for treatments of hair growing.

GHEE: Ghee is butter clarified with water. A washing with ghee cleans deeply the hair leaving it silky and shiny for several days. It turns the hair of a dark black color. It also gives abundant calcium to the scalp.

Henna was used to colorize with reddish shades and to make the hair more brilliant.

 

SULTANATE OF DELHI: VEILS AND TURBANS

Since the 7th century, several sultans proceeding from Damascus, Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan started to invade wide territories in India. The Muslim domination lasted for 8 centuries, and the most important bastion of their domains was the Sultanate of Delhi. Although they couldn't change the Indian's religion, a new cultural syncretism was produced, blending Muslim and Indian costumes. They were mostly tolerant with the local costumes; only in the governing classes a generalized use of veils and turbans was seen; yet was extended between men the costume of wearing beards, long sideburns and moustaches. The Islamic Sultanates ended in 1526 with the invasion and conquest of the country by those who founded in 1550 the MUGHAL EMPIRE OF INDIA.

THE MUGHAL EMPIRE :

A Mongol grown in Persia, Babur, descendant of Genghis Khan, founded the Mughal Empire in India in 1526. One of his first rules was to send his soldiers to cut the women braids with scissors, taking out the henna dye from their hair and covering it with dust.  This empire had a strong influence from the Persian culture, but, as it lasted almost 300 years, along the years the costumes were evolving to a fusion with the Indian ancestral traditions, and the rulers were changing their behavior from a former repression to a generalized tolerance of all the Indian costumes. During this period it was built the famous palace Taj Mahal, which shows the synthesis of the Indo-Saracen architecture. India lived at that time a very important economic and political expansion. In 1857 the whole country was incorporated to the British Crown as a colony, finishing with the Mughal Empire. Great Britain ruled on India until 1949. During the Mughal period, hairstyles were changing according with the times, although they always conserved their traditional characteristics: mainly black hair, long, with braids, or adorned with bands or tied in chignons at a side or at the nape.

 

KESH: A MARTYR WHO DIDN'T WANT TO CUT HIS HAIR

Kesh is the most important of all the Sikhism's precepts. It's the practice of never cutting the hair, as a symbol of respect for the perfection of God's creation. Sikhism is a religion originated in the Punjab region (the border between India and Pakistan) in the 15th century, being today one of the more organized religions, with more than 30 millions of believers around the world. The hair is tied in a simple knot, held in the nape and covered with a turban.

In 1745, at the times of the Mughal Empire, under the rule of the Emperor Muhammad Shah, Sikhs were persecuted and forced to cut their hair, under threaten of execution.

Bhai Taru Singh was a revolutionary who was imprisoned by the Khan of Punjab, Zakaria Khan. As a sign of submission to the Muslim governor, he was required to cut his hair, as an option to get rid of the execution. But he refused to seek the governor's pardon. After being tortured, his hair and his scalp were removed in public, with razors, for his hair never will grow up again. He was sentenced with the death penalty and executed. He remained in the history of Sikhism as a martyr and a symbol of the importance of Kesh.

INDIAN HEAD MASSAGE

The Indian Head Massage technique is an ancestral practice recorded since 4.000 years ago in the Ayurveda texts. In its way of champi, is still very popular today in India, being practiced by barbers in every haircut session. In the way of shirodhara is practiced with warm oils and spices. Many people in India use to do it as a domestic practice, in family. In this therapy, head, neck, shoulders and face are gently massaged. The benefits mentioned in the Ayurveda texts goes from a relaxing therapy up to the cleaning of toxins.  It’s also a relief for pain and tensions at the head, neck or back. It stimulates the lymphatic drainage, strengthening immunologic defenses, and recovers the muscles mobility. It also stimulates the growing of hair follicles.

 

 

<HAIR'S MYTHOLOGY

 

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Start The Hair What the Hair is Prehistory Mythology Old Age (1st. part) Old Age (2nd. part)
Middle Ages/Renaissance 18th Century 19th Century 20th Century Barbers' History The End Contact