Date of Award

August 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Bettina Arnold

Committee Members

Patrica Richards, William W. Wood


Archaeology of Gender, Archaeology of Identity, Bronze Age, Personal Hygiene, Prehistoric Northern Europe, Razors


Personal hygiene paraphernalia has been largely overlooked in interpretations of prehistoric European societies. Razors in particular have only recently been examined as playing an important role in European prehistoric societies. Typically found in burials and hoards, razors have historically been associated with the "warrior elite" concept in European prehistory. As a counterpoint, this thesis will examine the role personal hygiene and body modification played in identity construction and the possible symbolic role of razors in the construction of male identity in the Bronze and Iron Ages in northern Europe. Direct evidence, such as razors themselves, preserved hair, and bog bodies, as well as indirect evidence, such as emic and etic representations of the human body, and etic written texts that reference body modification, including hairstyles, facial hair grooming and possibly scarification, will be investigated. By using Hodder's concept of entanglement (2012) and drawing on ethnographic examples of body modification, this thesis will outline the possible cultural, social, and magico-religious importance of hair, hair removal and personal appearance in the creation and maintenance of male identity during the Bronze and Iron Ages in Britain and some parts of Scandinavia. This project will demonstrate how multiple lines of evidence regarding the use of razors in prehistoric Europe can help us determine to what extent razors, as well as associated hygiene paraphernalia such as tweezer sets, were objects used in the construction of cultural identity while contributing to the growing literature on ritual, life cycles, and materiality of the body in archaeology more generally.