Movember special - Fuzzy facts about Egyptian beards


As we enter the month of Movember, it is the time for reflecting while staring at the mirror as to what exactly the fuss is about. Most of us have been sounded out by the folks in the office to grow a mustache to promote awareness of prostate cancer or some such. But to me growing a beard sounds more appealing. Actually a mustache and a beard. At least i don’t have to shave, and i wont be caught hair-less in a sea of hair!

But as i sit with my Vusiem app on my ipad, going through the Egyptian, Assyrian and the Greek exhibits at the British Museum, i can’t help but wonder why some cultures emphasized facial hair and the others the lack of it.. hence the idea struck me for a blog

I am no evolutionary biologist or a historian to tell you an answer straight away. But i have some interesting theories. One of my theories is that our ancestor-apes had high awareness of prostate cancer and that is why they looked very hairy !

On a more serious note, why not peer down the ages and see what the nice folks in the past civilizations thought about facial hair

Trip down the Museum Lane for the facial hair Connoisseurs: Stop 1 Egyptians** **

I open the Vusiem and go to room 4 on the British Museum. As i browse through all the images - one thing strikes me.. they are all clean-shaven !! so clean, i mean, spotlessly clean wondering if it was a good idea after all picking the Egyptians for this blog.

But hang on, they all seem to have beards! Why are they clean shaven and what is the fuss about beards? Definitely worth some googling. So, yes i googled for about twenty five minutes and found out a lot of interesting facts

Fact 1: Ancient Egyptians were scrupulous about cleanliness and would never go about unshaven!

[caption id=“attachment_24” align=“alignnone” width=“225”] img ](./images/122.jpg) Clean shaven look was the norm ![/caption]

Fact 2: Nobody would grow a moustache or beard in Ancient Egypt because facial hair was considered unhygienic and unfashionable !

Fact 3: If someone had facial hair in Ancient Egypt, he was either from the poorest of the poor or a foreigner

Fact 4: Nearly all the beards worn by pharaohs that you see in museums are fake

[caption id=“attachment_29” align=“alignnone” width=“225”] 39 ](./images/39.jpg) Did it fall off because it was fake?[/caption]

Fact 5: It was customary for a pharaoh to have a beard since it was associated with divinity! But facial hair was considered unhygienic, so pharaohs resorted to false beards.

Fact 6: If women were to become pharaoh, they too were required to wear a false beard

[caption id=“attachment_28” align=“alignnone” width=“214”] Queen Hatshepsut with a fake beard ](./images.png) Queen Hateshput with a fake beard[/caption]

Fact 7: False beards in Egypt were made from metal or from the resin in goat’s hair. It was often interlaced with gold and had strings to tie around the ears. (is that why it is called goatee ?)

[caption id=“attachment_26” align=“alignnone” width=“225”] This beard is fake ](./images/29.jpg) Ramesess has a goatee![/caption]

Fact 8: If a statue had a short goatee, it was made when the person was alive. If it had a long and slender goatee, sometimes jutting forward, it was made posthumously

[caption id=“attachment_27” align=“alignnone” width=“225”] 35 ](./images/35.jpg) Statue made posthumously[/caption]

Fact 9: A beard was subsequently added to The Great Sphinx as the face of the Sphinx was that of the pharaoh!

[caption id=“attachment_25” align=“alignnone” width=“225”] 42 ](./images/42.jpg) Fragment from the beard of the Sphinx[/caption]

Fact 10: The earliest records indicate that the highest ranking Egyptians did grow real beards - but from 15th century BC onwards it seems to have gone out of fashion!

That was good.. and that’s it for today. I close my Vusiem app and put away the iPad.. time to call it a day!. Tomorrow I am going to look at the Assyrian galleries and see what they were up to with their beards. Thanks to vusiem.. i can do this from my bed !

But, I will leave you with this fact - a particularly hair-raising one, fit for this blog, day and occasion!

Priests and pharaohs in Ancient Egypt were often buried with a barber and his trusted razor so they could continue shaving indefinitely..!


Last edited on : November 11, 2015