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More than 3,300 years ago, in a newly built city in Egypt, a woman with an incredibly elaborate hairstyle of lengthy hair extensions was laid to rest.
She was not mummified. Her body was simply wrapped in a mat. But when archaeologists uncovered her remains, they found she wore "a very complex coiffure with approximately 70 extensions fastened in different layers and heights on the head," Jolanda Bos, an archaeologist working on the Amarna Project, in writes an article recently published in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology.
Researchers don't know her name, age or occupation, but she is one of hundreds of people, including many others whose hairstyles are still intact, who were buried in a cemetery near an ancient city now called Amarna. [See Photos of the Egyptian Skeletons and Elaborate Hairstyles]
This city was constructed as a new capital of Egypt by Akhenaten (reign ca. 1353-1335 B.C.), a pharaoh who unleashed a religious revolution that saw the Aten, a deity shaped as a sun disk, assume supremacy in Egyptian religion. Amarna was abandoned shortly after Akhenaten's death, and today archaeologists supported by the Amarna Trust are investigating all aspects of the ancient city.
Bos is leading the hairstyle research, and the woman with 70 extensions leaves her puzzled.
"Whether or not the woman had her hair styled like this for her burial only is one of our main research questions," said Bos in an email to LiveScience. "The hair was most likely styled after death, before a person was buried. It is also likely, however, that these hairstyles were used in everyday life as well and that the people in Amarna used hair extensions in their daily life."
Fat was used to help create all the hairstyles Bos found, something that would have helped keep the hair in one piece after death. In one case, a woman had an orange-red color on her graying hair. It appears that that she dyed her hair, possibly with henna (a flowering plant).