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    It all started in Africa. In fact, the oldest known image of braiding was discovered along the Nile River, by an ancient burial site known as Saqqara. Braids were even etched into the back of the head of the Great Sphinx of Giza. African tribes, groups and regions adorned their heads for cultural significance and was as complex and diverse as the many styles we know and love to recreate today.

    6 Popular Braiding Styles & Their True Origin

    Words by Tia Muhammad

    Ever wonder where your beloved “Beyoncé braids” originated, or how a variety of braiding techniques and styles came to be? Today we’ll go back to the beginning, 30,000 years back to be exact.

    It all started in Africa. In fact, the oldest known image of braiding was discovered along the Nile River, by an ancient burial site known as Saqqara. Braids were even etched into the back of the head of the Great Sphinx of Giza. African tribes, groups and regions adorned their heads for cultural significance and was as complex and diverse as the many styles we know and love to recreate today.

    Much like fashion in history, hair has long since been a marker of one’s attributes such as social status, wealth, religion, age, marital status and position.

    Take a look at six popular braiding styles we all love today and their true origin:

    1 Cornrows

    History can show to anyone that cornrows originated in Africa, but many seem to still lack the reasoning as to why? For most, the intricate braiding of the hair indicated the tribe you belonged to. Cornrows on women date back to at least 3000 B.C. and as far back as the nineteenth century for men, particularly in Ethiopia. Warriors and kings were identified by their braided hairstyles.

    Still largely worn throughout West Africa, Sudan, and the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia), cornrows can signify one’s age, religious beliefs, kinship, marital status, wealth, and were also a form of self-expression. Women and men used shells, glass, corals, fresh flowers and twigs, among other items, to adorn their cornrows and express their personalities.

    2 Ghana Braids

    Ghana braids, which today are also often called banana braids or fishbone braids, can be traced all the way back to Africa. The earliest depictions of Ghana braids appear in hieroglyphics and sculptures carved around 500 BC, illustrating the attention Africans paid to their hair.

    For centuries, they’ve been an integral part of many different Ghanaian ethnic, religious, social, and cultural traditions.

    What makes Ghana braiding so different from the traditional cornrowing is the start and finish. Each braid is started off small, soft and natural as it goes into a much thicker and fuller state in the middle until it is tapered off at the ends.

    Image: Pinterest

    For centuries, they’ve been an integral part of many different Ghanaian ethnic, religious, social, and cultural traditions.

    What makes Ghana braiding so different from the traditional cornrowing is the start and finish. Each braid is started off small, soft and natural as it goes into a much thicker and fuller state in the middle until it is tapered off at the ends.

    3 Fulani Braids

    The Fula, or Fulani Tribe, is the largest nomadic pastoral community in the world that populate West Africa and the Sahel Region.

    A very traditional hairstyle for women includes long hair being put into five long braids that either hang or are looped on the sides, with a coiffure in the middle of the head. Hair is decorated with beads and cowrie shells. A tradition that is passed through the generations to women and young girls includes attaching the family’s silver coins and amber onto braids as a heritage symbol as well as for aesthetic purposes.

    Image: Balfaumar

    4 Goddess Braids

    Goddess braids can also be dated back to the times of Ancient Africa. They are similar in shape to traditional cornrows, however the braids are often much thicker throughout, raised, very sleek and defined. They were a symbol of artwork, creativity, precision, and a new dimension of style.

    Image: Pinterest

    5 Box Braids

    Box braids can be dated as far back as 3500 B.C. in South Africa. The box braids all know and love today aren’t that different from the Eembuvi braids of Namibia or the chin-length bob braids of the women of the Nile Valley from over 3,000 years ago.

    Image: Shutz

    Hair was once wefted into fiber skull caps made of durable materials, like wool, felt and even human hair to reuse for their traditional garb and rituals. Cowrie shells, jewels, beads and other meaningful items adorned box braids of earlier women eluding to their readiness to mate, emulation of wealth, high priesthood and various other classifications.

    Box braids were expensive in terms of time, material and installation. It could have been assumed that a woman who could afford to sit for many hours adorning her crown was indeed a woman of fortune. Installing them requires both precision and patience with the process taking anywhere from four to eight hours depending on how long and thick you wanted your braids to be.

    6 Dreadlocs & Faux Locs

    Most often associated with Rastafarians and all things Jamaica, dreadlocs actually originated in, you guessed it, Africa.

    According to Dr. Bert Ashe’s book, Twisted: My Dreadlocks Chronicles, dating as far back as 2500 B.C., The Vedas, Hinduism’s oldest scriptures, depict the Hindu God Shiva wearing locs or “jaTaa” in the Sanskrit language.

    Ancient Egyptian pharaohs also wore locs, which appeared on tomb carvings, drawings and other artifacts. Thousands of years later, mummified bodies have been recovered with their locs still intact.

    Images: Shutterstock

    For the Himba Tribe, in the northwestern region of Namibia, hair indicates one’s age, life stage, and marital status. Hair is often dreadlocked with a mixture of ground ochre, goat hair and butter. In modern times, Indian hair extensions purchased from nearby towns has been included in creating dreadlocks.

    A teenage girl who has entered puberty would usually wear braid strands or dreadlocked hair that hangs over her face, and a married woman and a new mom would wear an Erembe headdress made from animal skin over her head. A young woman who is ready to marry would tie back her dreadlocks, revealing her face. Interestingly, single men wear a single plaid to indicate their unmarried status, and once they marry, they cover their heads never to unveil them in public again, with the exception of funeral attendances.