Browse Exhibits (2 total)


Two-sided comb with carving of lovers in a garden

Along with our overarching interest in materiality and the use of combs, we aim to think about intersectionality and include an analysis of combs and class consciousness. 

Since combs have been made out of rare materials such as precious metals, tortoiseshell, bone, or ivory, ancient and early modern combs were often used by elites or for important events such as a bridal trousseau or grave goods. 

As faux materials became more widely available, combs made of celluloid or plastic often mimicked more expensive materials, allowing those with less wealth to enjoy the look of higher-end designs.

However, people of all classes have always used combs. As such a ubiquitous item, for cleaning, arranging, and decorating hair, combs blur the lines between classes simply because of its functions.

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Combs from Ancient Egypt


There was no shortage of ornamental combs in ancient Egypt. These unique objects played a part in ceremonies dedicated to the gods. Likewise, it was common to find these objects buried with the deceased. They were meant to be carried into the afterlife and used for eternity.

Combs were also created for every day use. Due to the intense heat, many Egyptian women would shave their heads and wear wigs. Combs were used to keep the wigs clean and in place. The following exhibit showcases the different styles of Egyptian combs through history.

Further reading about the beauty objects ancient Egyptians used can be done in the Red Land, Black Land book by Barbara Mertz.

Mertz, Barbara. Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt. New York: HarperCollins, 2008. First published 1966 by Coward-McCann (New York). 

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