How to Give Yourself a 3000-Year-Old Hairstyle Using Iron Age Tools

There was a peri­od in the late 20th-cen­tu­ry when hav­ing hair long enough to sit on was con­sid­ered some­thing of an accom­plish­ment.

Judg­ing by the long hair pins unearthed from Austria’s Hall­statt bur­ial site, extreme length was an ear­ly Iron Age hair goal, too, pos­si­bly because a coro­net of thick braids made it eas­i­er to bal­ance a bas­ket on your head or keep your veil secure­ly fas­tened.

Mor­gan Don­ner, whose YouTube chan­nel doc­u­ments her attempts to recre­ate his­tor­i­cal gar­ments and hair­styles, com­mit­ted to try­ing var­i­ous Hall­statt looks after read­ing arche­ol­o­gogist Kari­na Grömer’s 2005 arti­cle Exper­i­mente zur Haar- und Schleier­tra­cht in der Hall­stattzeit (Exper­i­ments on hair­styles and veils in the Hall­statt peri­od.)

Gromer, the vice-head of the Vien­na Nat­ur­al His­to­ry Muse­um’s Depart­ment of Pre­his­to­ry, pub­lished pre­cise dia­grams show­ing the posi­tion of the hair orna­ments in rela­tion to the occu­pants of var­i­ous graves.

For exam­ple, the skele­ton in grave 45, below, was dis­cov­ered with “10 bronze nee­dles to the left of and below the skull, (and) parts of a bronze spi­ral roll in the neck area.”

Although no hair fibers sur­vive, researchers cross-ref­er­enc­ing the pins’ posi­tion against fig­ur­al rep­re­sen­ta­tions from peri­od arti­facts, have made a pret­ty edu­cat­ed guess as to the sort of hair do this indi­vid­ual may have sport­ed in life, or more accu­rate­ly, giv­en the con­text, death.

As to the “bronze spi­ral roll” — which Don­ner per­sists in refer­ring to as a spi­ral “doobly doo” — it func­tioned much like a mod­ern day elas­tic band, pre­vent­ing the braid from unrav­el­ling.

Don­ner twists hers from wire, after arrang­ing to have repli­ca hair­pins cus­tom made to his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate dimen­sions. (The man­u­fac­tur­er, per­haps mis­un­der­stand­ing her inter­est in his­to­ry, coat­ed them with an antiquing agent that had to be removed with “brass clean­er and a bit of rub­bing.”

Most of the styles are vari­ants on a bun. All with­stand the “shake test” and would look right at home in a bridal mag­a­zine.

Star Wars fans will be grat­i­fied to find not one, but two icon­ic Princess Leia looks.

Our favorites were the braid­ed loops and dou­ble buns meant to be sport­ed beneath a veil.

“The braids do kind of act nice­ly as an anchor point for the veil to sit on,” Don­ner reports, “Not a lot of mod­ern appli­ca­tion per se for this par­tic­u­lar style but it’s cute. It’s fun.”

Either would give you some seri­ous Medieval Fes­ti­val street cred, even if you have to resort to exten­sions.

Donner’s video gets a lot of love in the com­ments from a num­ber of archae­ol­o­gy pro­fes­sion­als, includ­ing a funer­ary archae­ol­o­gist who prais­es the way she deals with the “inher­ent issues of preser­va­tion bias.”

The final nine min­utes con­tain a DIY tuto­r­i­al for those who’d like to make their own hair­pins, as well as the spi­ral “doobly doo”.

If you’re of a less crafty bent, a jew­el­ry design­er in Fin­land is sell­ing repli­cas based on the grave finds of Hall­statt cul­ture on Etsy.

Watch a playlist of Donner’s his­tor­i­cal hair exper­i­ments and tuto­ri­als, though a peek at her Insta­gram reveals that she got a buz­z­cut last fall, cur­rent­ly grown out to pix­ie-ish length.

Down­load Grömer’s illus­trat­ed arti­cle on Hall­statt peri­od hair­styles and veils for free (in Ger­man) here.

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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