Hairy nutters of the ancient world

by Edward Pegler on 24 May, 2010

Why did ancient people suffer from such bad hair – was it their conditioner?

hairy people of the bronze ageWe’re all familiar with the feeling. He’s coming along the street toward us and there’s something not right about him. Certainly the muttering doesn’t help, but he could have a hands-free mobile. The movement of the eyes perhaps. But one big give away is that hair. Surely a wash and brush would make the world of difference. So we look carefully both ways and cross the street.

Glancing through the endless reconstructions of people in the ancient past, it’s difficult not to notice that often they also look terrible. Was the Neolithic world full of maddoes?

They obviously had challenges. There was the lack of gillette maxthrob 6000 (TM) techno-razors, certainly, but a piece of obsidian might just do. There was the lack of even a pair of scissors but, again, a piece of obsidian might just do. As for hair gel there’s no end of disgusting and not so disgusting things to put in your hair to make it stand up on end or lie very very flat.

hairy people at flag fenWhat concerns me is not really the hairstyles. It’s more what it says about our views of ancient people. Give them a matt of bramble tangled frizz and a big bushy beard and your automatic reaction is that this person is something less than human, to be avoided. Give them a ponytail and a shaven face and they instantly climb the intelligence tree. Indeed give them a mohican and some tattoos and you may have some very different but arguably better reasons for running away again.

There are studies that show we’ve always been obsessed by our hair. This is not new or unnatural. In fact it’s strange and very disconcerting to deal with people who don’t. Perhaps we might gain a bit more respect for those ancient ancestors if we were to allow them to be a bit more hair obsessed too. It might give them the dignity of a bit of style.


Barnet, A. 2006 Tressed to Impress: our love affair with hair. New Scientist 2576.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Carter June 9, 2010 at 9:37 am

This link will take you to the story, the hair product info is in page 2,


Edward Pegler June 9, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Dear Geoff

All I can say after reading the article is poor sods. To be fair, Iron Age people are often given fancy hairstyles in reconstructions. Their Neolithic ancestors less so.



Geoff Carter May 31, 2010 at 9:05 pm

I think an exotic hair product of Mediterranean origin was found recently on an Irish bog body.


Edward Pegler June 7, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Dear Geoff

Do tell. I’m a bit out of touch with the latest info, unfortunately (you can often tell by reading my posts).



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