Mesopotamian Headwear

Men and women adorned their heads in very different ways in Mesopotamia, situated in the region centered in modern-day Iraq near the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers between 3000 and 300 B.C.E. In the early years of civilization there, most men shaved their heads bald while women braided their long hair into elaborate styles pinned to the top of their heads. They also covered their hair with netting, scarves, or turbans.

Elaborate hairstyles soon became important for both men and women in Mesopotamia. Men started to grow their hair longer and would wear it in waves. The king began to wear a full beard and long braided hair tied in a large bun at the nape of his neck. Women continued to wear their hair long, twisting it into large buns that covered the top of the head to the base of the neck and adorning it with ribbons and pins.

The wealthiest people decorated their elaborate hairstyles with beautifully made jewelry of gold and silver. A royal tomb from Sumeria dating from 2500 B.C.E. included a golden helmet with a leather lining. The gold of the helmet was expertly formed to resemble the hairstyle popular for men of the time: waves around the face with a bun tied in the back. The same tomb contained jewels of the queen as well. One of the most impressive pieces is a headdress made of a wreath of golden leaves and blue lapis lazuli flowers with a golden fan topped with similar flowers in the back. In addition to these ornate headdresses, the king and queen also wore beautiful jewelry.

Assyrian rule from 1380 to 612 B.C.E. altered hairstyles slightly. Men wore full beards and mustaches with longer curled hair. But some people with certain occupations, such as priests, doctors, and slaves, had specific hairstyles and headdresses, especially for special ceremonies. The king, for example, wore a tall hat made of alternating rows of patterned and plain bands topped with a pointed cone. Persians, who ruled Mesopotamia from 550 to 330 B.C.E. , continued to curl their hair but began to wear rounded and pointed hats, probably made of leather.


Payne, Blanche. History of Costume: From the Ancient Egyptians to the Twentieth Century. New York: Harper and Row, 1965.


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