Before 2008, scholars assumed that the
hairstyles depicted on ancient Roman female portraiture were
universally false—either wigs or invented by the sculptor with
no reference to the subject’s “actual” hair. Janet
Stephens’ overturned this assumption after rediscovering the
Roman practice of sewing hairstyles together using needle and
This lecture-demostration features a live
recreation of an ancient hairstyle on a volunteer model and
discussion of ancient artifacts and technology, the latin
literature of grooming and hairdressing, the practical and social
ramifications of hair in Roman daily life, anachronism in the
intellectual history of ancient hairdressing and hair science.
Janet Stephens is a Maryland Senior Cosmetologist and educator who is a self-trained experimental archaeologist. Her interest in recreating ancient Roman hairstyles began with a chance visit to the Walters Art Museum in 2001, and she is now the recognized authority on the topic. She presents her research at universities, museums, and archaeology conferences, and was a 2012 Rome Prize finalist and American Institute of Archaeology travelling lecturer in 2014-15 and 2016-17. She has published in the Journal of Roman Archaeology and EXARC—the Journal of Experimental Archaeology, is a contributing author to the Berg Cultural History of Hair (forthcoming 2018), and has a popular YouTube channel devoted to historical hairdressing from antiquity through the 19th century.