Detail of Papyrus of Ani. The lock of hair of Ani. XVIII Dynasty. British Museum. Photo: www.britishmuseum.org
Ancient Egyptians had different ways to refer to the action of “disheveling hair“. That happens because the Egyptian was a very rich language and had many centuries of history.
In this same line, we find that Egyptians also had various terms for designating “lock of hair“.
Egyptian word for “lock of hair”.
The most common, that we have been reading and watching all over this blog is the word “swt” or “syt”.It was a very generic word for referring to a portion of head hair. This term seems to appear in the New Kingdom and according to the iconography it was chosen by scribes mainly for naming the pulled lock of hair related to the mourning practices.
Detail of the sarcophagus of Djedhor with Isis pulling her front lock of hair. Ptolemaic Period. Louvre Museum. Photo: www.cartelfr.louvre.fr
Egyptian word for “lock of hair”
The word “samt” has in Egytian a double value. In fact it is a controversial term. For some scholars it should be translated just as “sadness” or “lament“, but somne other scholar, due to the hair determinative and taking into consideration the context this word appears in, consider that it could be translated as “lock of hair“.
All along this blog we have seen how the word “samt” is closely related to the mourning rite and concretely to the mourning practice of cutting a piece-lock of hair of the professional mourners at the end of the funerary ceremony. So, one of the translations of “s3mt” could be exactly this one: “lock of hair of a profesional mourner”.
Another very interesting Egyptian word for “lock of hair” is “nebed“. It also appears in the New Kingdom and it seems to refer concretly to “plaited lock of hair“. It is very interesting to notice the between “nebed” and “nebedj”. This last word exists in Ancient Egypt from the Old Kingdom and its translation was “the bad“, in fact with the hair determinative it could also have the enemy determinative. There also was the proper noun of “Nebedj“, which was a way of naming Seth, the enemy of Osiris (and also Apophis,the enemy of Re).
We wonder if the word nebed for “lock or plait of hair” could come from the former Egyptian term nebedj, which was related to Seth, to he bad, to the enemy of Osiris. This is a dimension which links pefectly with the mourning practices with the hair of the professional mourners destinated to the resurrection of the dead. So, maybe nebedj was another Egyptian word for “lock of hair” again related to the mourning rite.