Yorkshire Museum

Roman Hair

This exceptionally rare hairpiece was discovered in York and probably belonged to a girl who was in her mid-teens when she died.

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It dates from the late 3rd to early 4th centuries.

It is a bun of auburn hair and was found with two jet hairpins in a stone coffin. It is so well preserved because the coffin was lined with lead and filled with gypsum.

This basic hairstyle of a bun wound round at the back was a common style across the Roman Empire among the less fashion conscious from the first century to the fifth.

It was particularly popular during the Christian period when it was the only female hairstyle to be approved of by the early Christian fathers.

The hairpins are called cantharus head pins. Most examples of these pins have been found in late Roman burials in York, with only a few found elsewhere in Britain or Europe.