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head shaving
Date: Sat, 28 Aug 1993
From: "Richard L. Goerwitz"
Subject: head shaving; function

I'm an interloper from the Near Eastern mailing lists. Chalk this note up to interdisciplinary cooperation :-). In the Ancient Near East, specifically the Syro-Pales- tinian area, head shaving was common as a mourning rite. It was also used throughout the Near East as part of the ritual purification process. Egyptian priests always kept their heads shaved. Attempting to browse through the classical literature, I have noticed an interesting trend. Herodotus, when he goes on about Egypt being the opposite of the rest of the world, notes that Egyptians let their hair grow out in mourning rather than shaving. But later on (see, e.g., Lucian of Samosata's _On Funerals_) I don't find many ref- erences. Latin literature is also pretty sparse on shav- ing. It seems mainly to function there as a sign of manumission. Does shaving, in fact, begin to die out as a common mourning rite into the Hellenistic and Roman periods? Was it ever all that important? Was it an import from the Near East to begin with?

Date: Sun, 29 Aug 1993 2
From: Donald Lateiner
Subject: Re: head shaving; function

Molly Myerowitz Levine at Howard Univ. is the world authority on hair in Greco-Roman and Hebrew antiquity, at least. She is preparing a monograph on the subject. There are numerous artt. in the anthropological literature on hair customs cross-culturally. Leach has one. Since hair is both a badge (unalterable within limits) and an alterable body-language emitter, institutions and anti-institutional (marines and monks vs. hermits and millennialists) employ it to signal caste, class, gender, status, and age (Odysseus is baldified by Athene in Ody. 13).

Date: Sun, 29 Aug 1993
From: Donald Lateiner
Subject: Re: head shaving; function

Oh, another area is shaving slaves, as in the hilarious scene in Petronius _Satyricon_. Different but related on slavery/manumission is the wonderful article in JRS on Tatooing by CP Jones (ca. 1972?).

Date: Sun, 29 Aug 1993
From: "Daniel P. Tompkins"
Subject: Re: head shaving; function

Lateiner and all should know that the study of hair (African-American) has been branded by the Wall St Journal as one more sign of cultural decline. Here we are joining in. The Journal has also attacked Jurassic Park for turning people against science, and Nickolodeon--the only interesting cable channel--for furtively turning our kids into environmentalists then (equally furtively) eliminating the environmental stuff from their evening programs--so parents won't know what evil they're wreaking. They also want to throw all criminals in jail and throw away the key, unless they're Mike Milken, Elliot Abrams or Ollie North, who were all saving the nation. Sorry to do this to you, folks; it's August, the silly season, and Don got me started. Something serious coming up next.
Culled from classics.log9308d and classics.log9308e
Copyright © 2001 David Meadows
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