The Egyptian city of Amarna, become capital of the Kingdom in 1350 BC under the Pharaoh Akhenaton, that imposed the cult of Athon, was discovered in 1977. One of the most significant discoveries occurred in 2014 and involves the cemetery where 100 non- mummified bodies were found, for this reason in advanced state of deterioration, simply wrapped in mats and buried in the necropolis. 28 of these natural mummies, after the study of the DNA, resulted being women and preserved accurate hairstyles made out of natural hair extension.
The complex hairstyles would require more that 70 braided locks, which differed in colour and shape: from waved and black to straight ans brown, and this shows how in Amarna there was a cohabitation of different cultures. Other locks have been found, of red colour, and the research revealed that, even back then, women would dye her grey hair with the henna dye
It was obvious the exaggerated love of the female population for hair and, in particular for braids that, in this case, would vary between 0.5 to 1 cm thickness (0.2 to 0.4 inches) and 20 to 30 cm length (7.8 to 11.8 inches) all the way to the shoulders. The conditioner was generally used by the Egyptians and it would allow to keep the hairstyle in place, and to preserve them, even all the way to us. The product was a mix of beef fat, castor oil, beeswax, pine bud and pistachio oil.
What was the reason why there was no classic mummification but instead they discovered the obsession of women to be buried with perfectly shaped hair?
The possible cause of the extension lays most likely in the concept of “life after death” that the ancient Egyptians were so close to. The mummification would allow a body to remain in great condition and reborn in the world of the dead where they would have encountered Anubis, protector of the necropolis that would have verified the weight of the heart, i.e. of their soul.
In Amarna, this passage of conservation of the body was not present: at the time not all the social classes could afford a full mummification but the women could still allow themselves to adorn their heads with extensions, so that they could have been “presentable” before the Gods.
One of the most supported theories is the one for which the hair was seen as an exclusively feminine pride, therefore it represented an offer to the cult of Isis, Goddess close to women because bearer of fertility.
Unfortunately there is no information on where these mummies are kept, but in 2016 it has been inaugurated a visitor center in Amarna where it is possible to see the a scale model replica of the tombs and houses at the time of the Pharaoh Akhenaton.