Human World

Video: Re-creating the hairstyle of the ancient Roman Vestal Virgins

Janet Stephens is a Baltimore hairdresser and amateur archaeologist, who calls herself a hair-dressing archaeologist. At a poster session in early January 2013 at the annual meeting of the Archeological Institute of American, Stephens showed how she recreated the hairstyle of the Roman Vestal Virgins on a modern head. She said she was inspired by an ancient portrait bust at a local museum and afterwards tried to recreate the hairstyle at home, but failed “miserably.”

She spent the next seven years conducting research in an effort to properly reconstruct the lost technique. And now, the results of her work have been published in the journal Roman Archaeology. The video below shows how she did it.

See this video on Janet Stephens’ YouTube page.

The hairstyle is called seni crines. It consists of six braids. Archeologist Elizabeth Barton has said that, in ancient Rome, hair was an expression of personal identity. A number of factors determined which hairstyle a person would wear, including gender, age, social status, wealth and profession. If you were an ancient Roman, your hairstyle told who you were and what your role in society was.

Hair was also used symbolically to mark rites of passage; for instance, loosened hair was common at a funeral. In much this same way, the seni crines hairstyle was worn by brides, in which case it was parted with a spear, Barton has said.

Vestal Virgins’ hairstyle photo courtesy Janet Stephens
Photo courtesy Janet Stephens.

Bottom line: Hair dresser and amateur archeologist Janet Stephens spent seven years researching the hairstyle of the ancient Roman Vestal Virgins, to learn how to re-create it. The video in this post shows how it’s done.

January 17, 2013
Human World

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