If you look at images or sculptures from ancient Egyptian times, you might see that the pharaohs were often depicted as having long, narrow and conspicuous beards. These beards were usually artificial and didn't function as simple style statements, but rather as evidence of high social positioning -- essentially royalty.
Appreciation of Beards in Ancient Egypt
Facial hair in ancient Egypt experienced highs and lows throughout the ages. While facial hair was common on men in the pre-dynastic era, it faded out once the early dynastic period rolled around. At that point, the shaven look was prevalent, both with aristocracy and with everyday citizens.
Beards and Godliness
Although beards weren't the norm for men at that time in ancient Egypt, they were associated with the gods. Pharaohs, regardless of their gender, wore the beards for this exact purpose. Although they were for the most part males, there were occasional female pharaohs, too. The beards typically were braided in a tight manner -- a style that was thought to be especially godly. Hair from goats was usually the main ingredient in these beards, which usually were thin at the top and somewhat broader farther down. Pharaohs typically put their false beards on for ceremonies, with the aim to express their importance and divine ranking.
Sign of Masculinity
Beards in ancient Egypt were also strongly linked to qualities such as mightiness, manliness and male fertility. They thought that beards gave off the impression of intelligence and experience due to age, which is why it was so imperative for the pharaohs to have them.
Reason for False Beards
Although ancient Egyptian men could just have easily grown authentic beards, they opted instead for fake hair out of concern for hygiene. They considered thick mustaches, beards and eyebrows indications of a lack of cleanliness. Not only did ancient Egyptians keep their faces mostly hair-free, but they usually didn't have much in the way of body hair either. Ancient Egyptians cared a lot about looking meticulous and tidy.
False Beards in Death
When pharaohs passed away, they tended to be portrayed as Osiris, a god who represented death and the afterlife. Part of this involved emulating his beard, which had slight curling at the tip. The false beards were often placed over the coffins of the pharaohs, as the coffins frequently featured illustrations of their faces.
- The Material World of Ancient Egypt; William H. Peck
- The Naked Man - A Study of the Male Body; Desmond Harris
- Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible; David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers and Astrid B. Beck
- Ancient Egypt; Philip Steele
- The Handy Art History Answer Book; Madelynn Dickerson
- The Egyptian Book of the Dead; Eva Von Dassow
- Penn Museum: Egyptian Pharaohs
- Ancient Egypt Dot-to-Dot; Jean J. Joachim
- The Ancient Egypt Book; Mark Fox
- Jesus the Egyptian; Richard Gabriel
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images