Thursday, 1 December 2011

Elling Woman's Hairstyle

Something interesting I found on the web: a reconstruction of an Iron Age Danish bog mummy's hairstyle. (Link to the page. Not everyone finds photos of mummies as fascinating as I do). She is thought to have been hanged as a sacrifice and then buried in the bog.

I have been trying to imagine sacrificing another human being, or being the sacrifice. My imagination fails me. Sacrificing sheep is difficult enough.

I had some extra time this morning and gave the hairstyle a try. Anyone not that interested in braided hairstyles will find the rest of this extremely boring.

I started a french braid at my brow and picked up sections of hair until just above my ears, then continued it as a plain english braid separate from the rest of my hair until the nape of my neck.

(Elling Woman did not have a french braid, but a plain english braid will not contain my flyaway hair).

I divided the lower part of my hair into three sections and added a section to each strand of the braid at the nape of my neck, then braided down to the end and tied it off.

Then I pulled the tail of the braid up and brought it through the space between the braid and the flat hair on the back of my head. Wrap around and pull through again, repeat several times to form a bun, tuck the end in under the rest of the bun.  It will stay without any fasteners, but I didn't want to risk the braid coming loose and falling out of my hijab.

The diagram shows separate strands of hair braided together, but hair is not rope. It does not behave that way unless twisted, and it would be nigh on impossible to twist all those strands of hair and keep them twisted and separate while braiding.

There was a lengthy debate on a hair forum I read about how to recreate this (some people have a lot of time on their hands - I may be one of them).

A few people continued the english braid to the end without adding more hair at the nape of the neck, made two rope braids (created by twisting two sections of hair together) out of the lower part of their hair, braided the three braids together as though they were sections of hair, then made a bun. It looked good, and seems a more likely method than the one described on the website I linked to.

The long tail of hair hanging down from the mummy's bun may be there because the bun unravelled, not because she wore it that way.

Some forum members had recreations of Viking bone hairsticks, which they fastened the bun with to prevent it from unravelling. I used a blunt #2 pencil.

This style worked well enough, but it's probably not something I would do again. There are quicker and simpler ways to make a braided bun.

(UPDATE April 2014: I have never repeated this hairstyle, but it's still one of my most-visited posts.  I'm glad other people are getting some use out of this.)


  1. I found this post really interesting but never commented before.

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  3. I have tried several reincarnations of this style and yours is an excellent approximation.

    would never consider the subject repelling - in fact, wearing the style makes me feel connected to this woman, a continuation of the ancients and it is a privilege and honor to be able to do so.

    1. Hi Peggy, thanks for commenting.

      A lot of people find discussion of mummies ghoulish, but it fascinates me, and it's nice to find people with a similar outlook. I know what you mean about feeling connected to someone who lived long ago, that's a good way of putting it.