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Hair and the Artifice of Roman Female Adornment

Elizabeth Bartman
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 105, No. 1 (Jan., 2001), pp. 1-25
DOI: 10.2307/507324
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/507324
Page Count: 25
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Hair and the Artifice of Roman Female Adornment
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Abstract

Roman female hairstyles were highly individualized, gendered cultural markers, in many cases having a physiognomic role in a portrait like the face itself. The paucity of surviving organic remains requires that we consult artistic representations in painting and sculpture to assess the forms of these hairstyles. Despite their often fanciful conceptions, they do not represent artistic inventions, but rather elaborate coiffures made with real human hair, usually the sitter's own. Thus wig wearing may not have been as common as has been imagined; the practice of supplying marble statues with removable wigs in contrasting stone is not in itself evidence for the wearing of wigs in antiquity. Modern commentary on the hairstyles worn by Roman women assumes frequent changes of hairstyle, an interpretation based on a misreading of the ancient evidence and essentialist views of women.

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