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The earliest potential records of henna use come from Egypt. Mummified bodies have been found with what appears to be henna-dyed hair and hennaed fingers; the mummy of Ramses II, among others, was noted to have hennaed fingertips and toes. The earliest of these findings dates back to the predynastic period of Egypt, approximately 3400 BCE.
Infra-red analysis has confirmed that the orange-red colouring is consistent with the active molecular ingredient in henna, hydroxy-naphthoquinone; the results of the microscopy also suggest, interestingly, that the henna was applied after death. If so, this may perhaps indicate the use of henna in some kind of mourning ritual or ceremony for the dead. While the mummy of Ramses II has henna-dyed hair, microscopic analysis confirms that he was in fact red headed in his youth; it could be suggested, therefore, that the henna was applied to restore his youthful appearance, either in his old age or during the mummification process.
The mummy of Queen Hatshepsut, ca. 1458 BCE, with hennaed hair
If archaeological evidence suggests that henna was used in ancient Egypt, we should expect confirmation from textual evidence; however, possible references to henna in Egyptian texts are extremely unclear. Some people claim that a variety of medicinal uses for henna are described in the Ebers Papyrus, but unfortunately this is based on a misreading of the word 'cyperus' (in a translation of the text) as referring to henna (later referred to as kupros in Greek and cyprus in Latin), when it in fact refers to Cyperus rotundus, a type of papyrus.