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Egypt Exploration Society

On the Various Methods of Representing Hair in the Wall-Paintings of the Theban Tombs
Author(s): Ernest Mackay
Source: The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Apr., 1918), pp. 113-116
Published by: Egypt Exploration Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3853729
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113
ON THE VARIOUS METHODS OF REPRESENTING HAIR
IN THE WALL-PAINTINGS OF THE THEBAN TOMBS
BY ERNEST MACKAY
IN the
wall-paintings
of the
Egyptian
tombs the head of the human
figure
is
always
represented
as either
completely
bare or covered with a
wig.
In the
period
of the
Eighteenth Dynasty
it is
usually
the less
important figures
that are
represented
with
bare or shaven heads, though occasionally
an
important personage
is
portrayed
without
a
wig.
In the latter case, however, he is
always
shown
acting
in a
priestly capacity
or
performing
a
religious
rite.
During
the Nineteenth and Twentieth
Dynasties
even the
most
important
male
figures
are often drawn with bare and shaven heads, as is to be seen
in
many
Ramesside tombs, the reason
being
that in this
period
such
people
were
nearly
always represented
as
acting
in a sacerdotal
capacity.
The shaven
portion
of the head was either
painted
the same colour as the body
or a
lighter
tint. The latter was the more usual method in the earlier
period,
the colour com-
monly employed being
either a brownish-red or brick-red which contrasted well with the
dark red used for the rest of the
body.
In Ramesside times, however, this distinction of
colour between the shaven
part
of the head and the rest of the
body
was
rarely
made.
Very closely cropped
or
newly-growing
hair was often
represented by painting
the
head a
deep
pink
colour covered with numbers of black or red
spots.
Good
examples
of
such work
may
be seen in the tombs of
Meryamun
and Userhet
(nos.
22 and
56).
The usual method of
representing
a
wig
was to
paint
it in black or blue, the latter
colour
being
quite
frequently
used. It is difficult to understand
why
blue should have
been used for this
purpose
unless we
suppose
that the ancient
Egyptian
could not
readily
distinguish
between black and blue, as is the case with the fellahin at the
present day.
Another
possible explanation
is that certain kinds of black hair
appear
to have a bluish tint
in a
strong light,
whereas others are
distinctly
warm in colourl. Black, however, was the
colour more
frequently used, though
both black and blue
wigs
are often to be seen in the
same
wall-painting.
A serious
disadvantage
attended the use of black
paint
for this
pur-
pose
in that much of it was not of a
permanent
nature. In some tombs it has
practically
disappeared, especially
where it has been
exposed
to a
strong light,
so that the
wigs
on
many figures appear
never to have been
painted
black at all.
1
In the
story
of the Destruction of Mankind, it is related that when
Re',
the
Sun-god,
was
grown
old,
his "bones were of
silver,
his flesh of
gold,
and his hair of
lapis
lazuli." The writer has not, however,
found
any
instances in the Theban tombs of hair being
coloured blue to denote
age,
nor is it clear that
this was intended
by
the
Egyptian writer,
who
may
be
referring
to the
august
rather than to the senile
appearance
of the
god.
ERNEST MACKAY
The
wigs
of the more
important figures
in a tomb are
represented
in several different
ways,
but the most
interesting
are those with the curls in relief. These were
always very
carefully done, and in the finest
examples
their execution must have
occupied
the artist a
considerable time. The
preliminary stage
in the best work was to draw a series of fine
horizontal lines across the outlined head to serve as
guides
in order to enable the artist to
set the curls in as
regular
order as
possible.
The method can be best studied in the tombs
of
Menkheper (no. 79, see
Fig. 1)
and of Baki
(no. 18),
where both the
beginning
and end
Fig. i. Heads from the tomb of Menkheper (no.
79).
of the
process may
be seen'. In the tomb of
Menkheper,
the lines were drawn about
11 mm.
apart, apparently
with the
help
of a
very
narrow ruler or
straight-edge,
with whose
width the
space
between the lines
evidently corresponded,
for no
attempt
was made to
mark off with
points
the
positions
of the
lines,
as would have been done had an
ordinary
straight-edge
been used. The
curls,
which resemble
pear-shaped
drops hanging vertically,
are
composed entirely
of thick blue
paint
or coloured
paste.
In other tombs such curls
were
similarly formned,
but
plaster
was
generally
the substance used for the
purpose
and
was,
after
setting, painted
black or blue. There is
only
one
way
in which such curls could
have been made, namely, by dipping
a
pointed
stick into the
liquid
material and
applying
it to the wall with a
drop
of
plaster
or coloured
paste hanging
from it. In no case so far
discovered in the
necropolis
were such
wigs
cut out of solid material or modelled in the
mass in wet
plaster; they
were
evidently invariably made,
curl
by curl,
from fluid material.
The
guiding
lines above mentioned would
obviously
be useless for
any
other
method, being
drawn,
as
they are, directly
on the
unpainted plaster
of the tomb wall and at a
deeper
level
than the outer surface of the curls. A
very
effective
wig
is to be seen in the tomb of Antef
(no. 155).
It is made from
drops
of blue
paste
in the manner described above, but differs
from the
wigs already
mentioned in that the
ground
between the raised curls is
painted
black,
the whole
forming
a
very imposing
head-dress.
Another method of
representing
the hair on a
wig
in
relief, of which, however, exam-
ples
have
up
to the
present
time been found in
only
two
tombs, namely
those of
Huy
and Rekhmire (nos.
54 and
100),
was to make a series of raised lines in
plaster radiating
from a
point
on the
top
of the
head,
the lower
part
of the
wig
nearest the face
being
com-
posed
of
drops
as in the tombs above
mentioned, nos.
18,
54 and 79. These raised lines
1
Such lines are also to be seen in the tomb of
Huy (no. 54),
in a
figure
of
Huy
on the left
jamb
of
the entrance doorway.
114
METHODS OF REPRESENTING HAIR 115
must have been cut or moulded in
plaster,
as
they
could
hardly
have been made in
any
other
way'.
Wigs represented
in relief in
painted
tombs
appear
to date from the
period
between
Tuthmosis II and
Amenophis III;
none of either earlier or later date have been discovered
in the Theban
Necropolis.
In
any given painted
tomb the
wig
of the deceased is never shown in relief more than
once or twice; in all the other
representations
of him it is
merely painted
on the flat. In
the finer
painted tombs, however, much care was taken even with a
painted wig
in order
to make it as realistic as
possible,
and the colours used for this
purpose
were
very
varied.
A rare method of
depicting
a curled
wig
was to
paint
it blue and to
represent
the
curls
by
rows of small black
triangles,
the
apices
of the
triangles
in each row
touching
the bases of those in the row above. Good
examples
of this method are to be seen in the
tombs of Anena
(see Fig. 2),
Antef and Amenemhet
(nos. 81,155 and
182).
In the tomb of
another Amenemhet
(no. 82, see
Fig. 32), this
arrangement
was reversed, for the
apices
of
the
triangles
point
downwards. All these tombs, with one
exception,
are dated to the
Fig.
2. From the tomb of
Fig. 3.
From DAVIES-GARDINER,
Fig. 4.
From DAVIES-GARDINER,
Anena
(no.
8i)
Tomb
of
Amenemhet, P1. VIII Tomb
of Amenemhet, PI. XVIII
time of Tuthmosis III; and
though
the
exception, owing
to the absence of definite evidence,
cannot be
exactly dated, there is a
strong presumption
that it
belongs
to the samne
period.
This method of
representing
the curls in a
wig by
rows of small
triangles
comes down from
the Old
Kingdom,
but is
only
found in the Theban
Necropolis
in tombs of the middle of
the
Eighteenth Dynasty.
It should also be noted that in the tombs of Amenemhet
(Fig.
43) and Antef
(nos.
82
and
155),
some of the
figures
in the wall
paintings
wear head-dresses with thick black
horizontal lines
painted
on a blue
ground.
This is a
very
remarkable
way
to
represent
a
wig,
and
beyond
the
examples
in the two tombs mentioned, the writer knows of no others
in the
necropolis.
In four tombs
(nos. 16, 147, 181 and
255)
there are
wigs
in which the hair is
painted
in black on a
ground
of dark
grey-blue
or slate
grey.
The
ground-colours
used for the
wigs
in Tombs 38,
43, 55, 56,
64 and 93 were
light
red and both
light
and dark brown,
the
hair, whether in curls or
straight, being painted
in black. In the tomb of Sennuffer
1
Wigs
of a somewhat similar
design,
but cut in
stone, may
be seen in the tombs of Ramose and
Khaemhet
(nos.
55 and
57).
2
See
DAVIES-GARDINER,
Tomb
of
Amenem/et (no. 82), P1. VIII.
3
See
op. cit., PI. XVIII.
ERNEST MACKAY
(no. 96)
a
wig
is to be seen, in which a series of thick black
wavy
lines
representing
the
hair are
painted
close
together
on a
yellow ground.
The
representation
of the
wigs presented
difficulties in the case of the small bodies or
gangs
of men
frequently
to be seen in
Egyptian wall-paintings,
whether the
personal
ser-
vants of the deceased or men over whomn he had
authority
when alive, such as soldiers or
labourers on
temple lands, for
they
were
usually
drawn in rows,
standing
one
partly
behind
the other. The result was that,
owing
to the
Egyptian
use of flat colours and the total
absence of
light
and shade in their
paintings,
the heads and bodies of the
figures
tended
to blend into one another so as to form a
shapeless
mass of colour. As a
general rule, with
a view to
obviating
this
difficulty,
each
figure
was outlined with a thin red line of a darker-
tint than the colour it
enclosed,
but in
many
cases this was found to be somewhat unsatis-
factory,
as such an outline could be seen
only
from
comparatively
close to the wall. The
simple expedient was, therefore, adopted
of
painting
alternate bodies of a
lighter tint, a
method
extensively
used
throughout
the Theban
Necropolis,
and the same
system
was
applied
in
painting
the head-dresses of the
figures.
One of the best
examples
of this is
to be seen in the tomb of Kenamufn
(no. 93),
where the
wigs
of three
large
and
important
figures standing partly
one behind the other are
painted
in three different colours. The
wig
of the foremost
figure
is dark red, that of the second dark
yellow
and of the third
grey,
a series of
wavy
curls
being
drawn on the
ground-colour
in each case. Another
good
example
is to be found in the tomb of Amenemiihab
(no. 85),
where the
wigs
of a row of
figures
are
painted
in turn
black, light red,
black, blue, black, light red, and so on, with no
attempt
to
represent
either curls or
straight
hair. Then
again in the tomb of Ramose
(no. 55),
a well
painted
row of mrnen wear black
wigs, alternately
with red ones adorned
with black curls.
An
exceptionally interesting
case of a series of
wigs being
differentiated without the
use of colour is to be seen on the south-west wall of the tomb of Rekhmire
(no. 100),
where
there is a row of six men
overlapping
each other
considerably.
No
attempt
has been made
to contrast the
figures by
the use of different colours, the faces and bodies
being merely
outlined in dark
red,
as in the case of
single figures,
but the
wigs
are
distinguished
from
each other
by
varying
the
shape
of the raised
plaster
curls in alternate
figures.
Thus the
leading figure
has a
wig
with horizontal
plaster drops
to
represent curls, the
drops
are
vertical in the second
figure,
and so on
alternately,
the last man
having
a
wig
simnilar in
design
to the second.
In
portraits
of women the
wig
is
painted
either black or blue, the latter colour
being
rarely
found. Three
types
of head-dress are to be seen, namely wigs
with hair tassels
hanging
from the lower border, others with a
plain border, and head-dresses
consisting
mainly
of
loosely
twisted or
plaited strands, which were
mostly
worn
by dancing girls
and
female musicians. The lower borders of the
wigs
of these three
types
are drawn either
falling
in front of the hinder shoulder of the wearer, or
partly
in front of and partly behind
it. No
attempt
was made to
represent
in relief the hair
upon
a
wig
worn
by
a
woman,
which is curious, considering
the care
expended
on the head-dresses worn
by
the men.
Women, with but few
exceptions,
were never
represented
with the head
bare,
and
these
exceptions are, in all cases, women
personating goddesses
in funeral ceremonies,
as
may
be seen in the tomb of Amenemhet
(no. 82),
where the
cropped
or
newly growing
hair is
plainly
indicated on the women's heads'.
1
On the left hand side of the passage.
See
DAVIES-GARDINER,
op.
cit., P1. XI.
116

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