History of Headgear in Persia

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tamara Ebrahimpour

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Persian and Median nobles Persepolis, Iran
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Parthian statue
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Achaemenid archer, Persepolis, Iran
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Median Surena
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Ardeshir, Naqsh-e-Rostam, Iran

Throughout history, headgears have played a significant role in Persian society and have been used to represent profession, race and social status.

Historical documents and ancient inscriptions indicate head covers had different uses in different historical eras. In Persia, headgears often had ornamental purposes and were used to distinguish between the members of different classes and professions.

Early historical evidence regarding the use of headgear in ancient Persia has been found in the city of Kashan in Isfahan Province. Dating back to some 6000 years ago, the white stone statue, which has a cloth head covering, is housed in Iran's National Museum in Tehran.

Archeologists have also found a number of cave drawings in the country's western Luristan Province, which clearly portray head covers.

Historical documents show that the world's first fabrics were made in Susa about 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, suggesting that the history of headgears in Iran dates back to almost the same time.

A silver cup found in Fars Province, bears the image of a messenger goddess, wearing a small hat covering her hair and a long piece of cloth round her head.

Another 5000-year-old inscription found in western Iran shows a goddess wearing a conical crown.

A goddess statue, housed in Louvre Museum wears a similar crown, which is composed of a high, layered hat. An image of the Elamite king, Inshushinak, shows the monarch wearing a similar crown.

The statue of an Elamite queen shows a different type of headgear, composed of multi-layered cloth with a sash fastened around it.

Achaemenid Era:

Persepolis and Bisotun inscriptions give a clear image of Achaemenid attire and headgears, which were used to distinguish between various social classes.

Median civilians and officers covered their heads with round and soft egg-shaped felt caps, which were decorated with a lace around the edges. Ancient inscriptions show that a diadem was also worn over the felt cap.

Cyrus the Great ordered Persian soldiers and civilians to wear similar head covers.

Achaemenid kings wore a tall and serrated golden crown, adorned with gold leaves and colorful jewels. The 22 or 24 serrations of the crown symbolized towers, battlements, temples or the Sun.

Achaemenid kings usually fastened a white or blue sash around their forehead as well. Representing the heavenly power bestowed upon the king, the crown was considered sacred and not entrusted to just anyone.

Persepolis bas-reliefs show soldiers wearing the Basak, a circular ring metal or felt and covered with flowers and branches and worn by the king, his courtiers, military officers and ordinary people.

The non-metal felt Basak was worn during hunting and war to prevent the hair from being disturbed.

Bisotun inscriptions show the king's archer, wearing a knitted band round his head.

The king's canopy holder is pictured with a felt cap covering her head and chin. This kind of head cover known as Bashlogh had special fringes behind the ears and back of the head, which became narrower at the bottom.

Bashlogh was also worn by Median officers, commoners and Scythes.

The Achaemenid queen wore a bejeweled crown to which a thin piece of cloth reaching her knees was attached.

Historical documents show that the only difference between the head covers of female and male Achaemenid royalties was the thin cloth.

Achaemenid women wore headscarves reaching as far as their ankles. The shawl-like scarf was not wrapped under the neck and was usually worn with a diadem or a Basak.

The Achaemenid headscarf covered the hair and hung at the back.

Parthian Era:

Parthian headgears were deeply influenced by the Achaemenid style. One of the most popular Parthian head covers, usually worn by religious authorities, was a low conical felt hat similar to those of the Scythes with long ear-covers reaching the shoulders.

A statue found in Iran's Luristan Province shows a Parthian king with a piece of cloth wrapped around his head.

Parthians adorned this royal cloth with jewels and covered it with shoulder-length tassels, which were sometimes attached to conical hats.

Parthian noblewomen used bejeweled circlets with a thin cloth attached to them.

Sassanid Era:

Sassanid kings wore green, sky blue or red crowns designed according to their personal tastes.

A common feature of Sassanid crowns was their dome-shaped upper part, which were inspired by an eastern tradition to gather the hair on top of the head and fasten it with a silk cloth.

The gathered hair was then replaced by a ball-shaped rise, which symbolized power, the Earth and the Sun.

Ancient rock carvings show that the crown was usually covered with a thin cloth, reaching the waist.

High-class Sassanid women wore no headgears or only small richly-decorated hats.

Inscriptions at the historical site of Naqsh-e-Rostam near Persepolis show men wearing large felt hats with a sash and crescent patterns.

The statue of the goddess Anahita at Naqsh-e-Rostam shows her wearing a golden, bejeweled crown with pleated sashes hanging from all sides. Near the goddess statue are carvings depicting men wearing headgears with animal heads.


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