On June 14, 2019, the UK’s Channel 5 aired the first episode of the documentary, The Nile: Egypt’s Great River, presented by British historian Bettany Hughes.
The episode showed a team of Egyptologists at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo carefully lifting the lid from the tomb of Tjuyu, an Egyptian noblewoman who died in 1375 BC. She is believed to be the grandmother of Nefertiti and the great-grandmother of pharaoh Tutankhamun; her tomb was discovered in 1905.
A Daily Star article describes Tjuyu’s mummified body as “incredibly-well preserved”. In the Channel 5 documentary, Egyptologist Salima Ikram pointed out that Tjuyu’s body was so intact that it was even possible to see the sandals she was wearing while being mummified.
What is even more interesting about the Tjuyu mummy is that she had strawberry-blonde wavy hair and non-negroid features. Ikram said it is unclear how her hair got to be this color, and that “We’re not 100% sure” if that is her original hair.
But Tjuyu isn’t the only ancient Egyptian mummy with blond or red hair.
The mummy of Ramsses II also has ginger-blond wavy hair and non-negroid facial features. Ramsses II, aka Ramsses the Great and Ozymandias, reigned 1279–1213 BC as the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty, and is believed to be the pharoah of the Moses-led Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt.
Blond-red wavy hair had also been found on the mummies of non-royal ancient Egyptians, like this one.
In 2014, Brigham Young University archeologists excavated an enormous cemetery in Fag el-Gamous necropolis along the eastern edge of the Fayum depression near Seila in Egypt. Dating to the time when the Roman or Byzantine Empire controlled Egypt, from the 1st to the 7th century AD, the cemetery is believed to contain over one million burials, among which are blond and redheaded mummies. (Ancient Origins)
A reason offered for the color of hair is that the hair had been bleached by a mineral called natron in the mummification process. (Sydney Morning Herald)
Natron is a naturally occurring mixture of sodium carbonate decahydrate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride and sodium sulfate. Natron was used to dry and preserve fish and meat, bleach clothing, make leather, as an ancient household insecticide, and during mummification ceremonies in ancient Egypt because it absorbs water and behaves as a drying agent.
But Dr. Janet Davey from Australia’s Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine believes some ancient Egyptians were naturally blond- and red-haired. To test her hypothesis, Dr. Davey conducted an experiment. She covered 16 Egyptian hair samples with natron for 40 days, but none of the hair changed in color.
Dr. Davey maintains there were fair-haired ancient Egyptians, especially during the Greco-Roman period (332BC to 395 AD), but that finding fair-haired mummies is “very rare” and this is why some Egyptologists believe the lighter hair color was created during the mummification process.
H/t Ancient Origins
Better than Drudge Report. Check out Whatfinger News, the Internet’s conservative frontpage founded by ex-military!