Ancient ivory comb shows that self-care is as old as time

Ancient ivory comb shows that self-care is as old as time

Centuries existed before skin-care gurus were selling advice such as silk pillows for hair loss and wrinkles sheet Masks to give your hair a natural glow and mayonnaise for hair mask , There was also a comb that could be used to treat the oldest known: lice.

A small ivory comb dating to about 1700 BCE was found with engraved with a hopeful spell against the wingless insect that like to infest human hair. The inscription reads, “May this [ivory] tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard,” according to a study published last month in Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology. The 17 letters on the comb form seven words and belong to an early form of the alphabet used by the Canaanites.

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The Canaanites lived in a region that includes parts of present-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan called Canaan. The region is mentioned throughout the Hebrew bible and historical texts dating as far back as 3600 BCE. The comb was uncovered at Tel Lachish, the remains of a major Canaanite city-state from the second millennium BCE. From 1800 to 1150 BCE, Lachish was the major center for the use and preservation of the Canaanite alphabet. To date, 10 Canaanite inscriptions have been found at Tel Lachish, but never one containing a full phrase–until now.

“This sentence is the first ever to be found in the Canaanite language of Israel. There are Canaanites in Ugarit in Syria, but they write in a different script, not the alphabet that is used till today, ” Yosef Garfinkel, an archaeologist at the Institute of Archaeology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a co-author of the study, said in a statement. “The Canaanite cities are mentioned in Egyptian documents, the Amarna letters that were written in Akkadian, and in the Hebrew Bible. The comb inscription is direct evidence for the use of the alphabet in daily activities some 3,700 years ago. This is a significant milestone in the history of human ability to write .”


The comb measures approximately one inch in length by 0.9 inches in width and has teeth on both ends. These teeth were likely used to remove lice eggs and eggs from hair. They are similar to two-sided lice removal combs that are still in use today. These combs were made of bone, ivory, or wood. Ivory was most likely imported as it was more expensive. The authors believe that the comb was likely imported from Egypt because there were no elephants in Canaan at the time. The importation of such a fancy bug-picker proves that even the most powerful and wealthy people were not immune to the annoying nuisance of lice.

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Tiny remains of some head lice (about 0. 02 inches) were found on the combs second tooth of the comb. The weather and climate of Lachish didn’t allow for a whole louse to be preserved on the comb, but the outer chitin membrane of a bug in the nymph stage survived.

According to the study, many of the comb’s special features (despite its tiny size) are helping researchers fill in knowledge gaps about the culture of Canaan in the Bronze Age, which lasted from 3000 to 1000 BCE. It contains a complete verbal sentence in the language spoken by the Canaanite residents of Lachish. Scientists can then compare it to other written languages from the Bronze Age. The inscription also sheds light on some of the less well-known, but still important, aspects of daily life at that time, such as haircare and dealing itchy lice.

This is also the first time that an inscription has been found in the area. It refers to the object it was written upon and showcases the skillful carving of an unknown engraver. They were able carve tiny letters that measured less than an inch in width, which will be useful for future research on literacy and carving in Bronze Age Canaan.

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