Department of Archaeology, King's Manor, University of York, YO1 7EP, UK.
Cite this edited collection as: Ashby, S.P. (ed) 2016 Archaeologies of Hair: the head and its grooming in ancient and contemporary societies, Internet Archaeology 42. https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.42.6
This collection of short articles represents an original attempt to bring together scholarship that is usually divided along lines of specialism in time, place, method, or discipline. The shared focus of its contributions is on hair: more than an infrequently preserved element of human remains, but a widespread (and arguably cross-cultural) symbol of power, of fertility, of identity and the self. Moreover, its care and treatment using various forms of material culture, and its artistic representation in diverse media, offer a unique opportunity to examine the interface between the body and material culture. Where exceptional taphonomic conditions facilitate the preservation of hair and associated organic material, the result is some of the richest assemblages of human remains and associated material culture in the archaeological record. In contrast, 'everyday' objects associated with haircare are among the most taphonomically robust, frequently encountered and recognisable personal items known to archaeologists, and provide us with insight into the making of personal and bodily identities, even in the absence of human remains themselves. When studied in an interdisciplinary framework, the interpretative potential of this material is clear, but such work has been rare. This collection aims to set a new agenda for cross-disciplinary research focused on the nexus of human and artefactual remains, by highlighting the rich and diverse potential of this material when studied through archaeological, biochemical, artistic, historical, sociological and anthropological lenses.
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