The Journal of Roman Archaeology is not exactly beach reading; the annual editions weigh in at around one-thousand pages. This is hardcore PhD. land. Recently, though, the academic journal published the debut article of a scholar whose advanced degree is a Maryland Senior Cosmetologist license.
Janet Stephens is a hairdresser at a high-end salon in Baltimore who has shaken up the world of classical studies. She was killing time at The Walters Art Museum on a rainy day when she wandered into a gallery of marble busts. All the famous Romans were there – Nero, Marcus Aurelius – but Stephens was more interested in the women, with their coiffed, architectural hairdos, like the second-century empress Julia Domna.
Hair was clearly a big deal to the Romans, but not so much to scholars of the Romans; Stephens could find nothing in the literature on how they achieved these technical marvels, like the multi-braid Vestal Virgin style. Some scholars opined that the hairdos in the busts were the sculptors showing off, using artistic license; others said the women wore wigs. Stephens didn't buy it – she could feel that the hairstyles were real, but she could not reproduce them. Roman hair had a secret technique, forgotten for millennia, until Janet Stephens uncovered it.
Slideshow: Recreating Ancient Roman Hairstyles
The story you just read is freely available and accessible to everyone because readers like you support The World financially.
Thank you all for helping us reach our goal of 1,000 donors. We couldn’t have done it without your support. Your donation directly supported the critical reporting you rely on, the consistent reporting you believe in, and the deep reporting you want to ensure survives.