Bathilde’s hair braids

We are lucky to have a few extant pieces of material from the Merovingian period. At the Albert Bono Museum in Chelles, France (just 15 minutes from Paris) is a wonderful collection of clothing and personal items from two Merovingian woman, Queen Bathilde and Abbess Bertille.

Today, we are looking at the coiffure of Bathilde. She had long blonde hair that was gathered to a single point an the nape, and then divided into two strands. The hair was not braided, but rather wrapped in a silk cord, 4.91 meters long. The silk cord was composed of a central core of reeled silk (not spun), 4.91 meters long, with intervals wrapped by spun (possibly two-ply) silk threads and gold-foil wrapped silk. The colors of the wrapping silk are red, yellow and green.

Here is a conjecture of what it possibly looked like.

Source: J.-P. Laporte: Le Trésor des saints de Chelles (Chelles, 1988)

Here are some images of the actual hair. The first one is a close-up of a wrapped section of the cord.

J.-P. Laporte: Le Trésor des saints de Chelles (Chelles, 1988)


This is a section that shows how the hair was gathered and wrapped by the cord.

Source: Author's collection


This is a section of the silk fibers with sections wrapped by silk thread and gold-wrapped threads. The gold was crimped around the hair strands to help hold the hair and cords in place.

Source: Author's collection

I’ve read that there have been chemical analyses on her hair, but haven’t been able to find the references in time to add into this post. (I’ll add it when I do find it) I seem to remember the analysis showed the presence of cannabis and chamomile. (I could be confusing Bathilde with Arnegunde who was buried with a hemp cloth). The presence of cannabis in hair does not necessarily mean that she was a toker, although that has been claimed by some. It is possible that cannabis oil and chamomile were used as hair dressing.

Over the hair a veil would have been worn, and that is a topic for another discussion.




One Comment

  1. Reply
    Liutgard May 8, 2011

    Awesome! Cool stuff!

    And yet again I wish that the Carolingians were still burying with stuff. 😛

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