Examples of the mohawk hairstyle can be found as far back in history as 600 B.C. Considering all the empires that have risen and fallen throughout history, mohawks have surely been adopted by many cultures since then. But what about the ancient Celts; did they wear mohawks?
The Celts might’ve worn mohawks. The term didn’t exist until later, but Celts were sometimes said to wear their hair “like a horse’s mane” or shaped into spikes for intimidation. Additionally, preserved remains found in Ireland indicate the mohawk was used in the area as far back as 400-200 B.C.
This article will explore traits commonly attributed to the hair of the ancient Celts and the significance of hairstyles in their culture. It will also go into the history and origin of the mohawk as well as information on other hairstyles.
How Did Celts Commonly Wear Their Hair?
The ancient Celts commonly kept their hair long, men and women alike. It wasn’t uncommon for men to spike and braid their hair or wear it in a long ponytail. These hairstyles were considered intimidating. Higher-class men wore large mustaches, and soldiers sometimes had bowl cuts.
It’s unclear exactly how common hairstyles like the mohawk were for the Celts, especially since the mohawk long predates its own name. However, there are some consistencies among physical descriptions of these people that suggest this is the type of hairstyle they would have used. Evidence like the Clonycaven Man supports that the hairstyle was at least used by the Celts, if not popular. 
To the Celts, hair was a symbol. Long hair was prestigious, and cutting someone’s hair was viewed as a disgrace. They were known for bathing their hair in lime water as well as wearing accessories like bands and clips. They revered long hair and had many ways of accentuating it. This affinity for hairstyling was gender-neutral, but “intimidation” practices such as spiking the hair were only typical of men.
Considering the cultural appreciation for long and often spiked hair, it is possible some of them wore mohawks or something similar. However, the term for this hairstyle had yet to be coined, leaving descriptions vague and difficult to interpret. The only well-documented consistency in ancient Celtic hairstyles was an appreciation for long and uncut hair paired with intimidating styles.
This aspect of Celtic culture persisted through the Roman conquest of their people and well into medieval times. A later example of such styles was the Irish fad of wearing “glibs” – short hair with long, shaggy bangs often covering the eyes. The glib even survived through attempts by the English rulers of the time to outlaw it, although it’s not well-known in modern times.
It’s hard to identify any specific hairstyles that the Celts favored because they were a diverse people spanning a large territory. They had influences from outside cultures over time as well, like the Romans.
Additionally, information from such distant history has been fragmented and recounted through the eyes of people who lacked the descriptive words for something like a mohawk. This makes it hard to identify any exact hairstyles used by the ancient Celts.
Are Dreadlocks Celtic?
There are some Roman accounts of Celts wearing their hair “like snakes,” which may indicate that they were an early adopter of dreadlocks. However, there are many other cultures where dreadlocks have been adopted throughout history, some of which predate the Celts.
While some Celts may have worn dreadlocks, the hairstyle has roots as far back as 1600 B.C. The ancient Minoans and Egyptians are some other examples of early adopters of dreadlocks, with generally better documentation of it to suggest it was also more popular for them.
There’s plenty of historical evidence that some Celts could have and likely did wear dreadlocks. However, this was not the predominant hairstyle among them, and there are older cultures that featured more popular and well-documented uses of dreadlocks.
The first archaeologically documented usage of dreadlocks comes from Egypt, where mummies have been found preserved with the hairstyle. This suggests that it could be as old as 3,000 B.C., well predating the Celts and most other early adopters.
Regardless, dreadlocks and similar styles have appeared frequently in many cultures all throughout recorded history, making it a universal aesthetic that was historically quite popular. Due to this, it is impossible to pinpoint, with certainty, any single culture responsible for creating the style.
What Is the Origin of the Mohawk Hairstyle?
One of the earliest examples of the mohawk is the Clonycavan Man, a preserved cadaver found near Dublin, Ireland, which is around 2,300 years old. This indicates that the Celts could have been the creators of the mohawk, but it’s hard to tell since the name used to describe this style wouldn’t be coined until much later in history.
Herodotus wrote of a Libyan tribe with hair he described as similar to a mohawk, indicating another possible origin for the hairstyle from the same time period.  Herodotus is considered a very accurate historical source for his reliable and neutral retellings of verifiable events. His writing covers events from 550-479 B.C., predating the estimated age of the Clonycavan Man.
The modern name of the mohawk comes from the Native American tribe of the same name.  However, this is due to a misconception popularized by a 1939 movie, Drums Along The Mohawk.
This movie inaccurately depicted the Mohawk tribe wearing this hairstyle and popularized the association. The Mohawk people actually were not known for wearing mohawks, and it dates much further back in recorded history.
Native Americans, in general, were not well known for wearing mohawks. There are claims that the warriors of some tribes used the hairstyle to make it more difficult for an enemy to scalp them, but regardless, it was not commonplace.
Native American tribes more commonly wore their hair long and straight or in styles like braids or buns. Shaving or plucking hair from the head was not an uncommon practice, but the mohawk, in particular, was relatively uncommon.
It’s likely, but ultimately hard to verify, that ancient Celts wore mohawks. They were known for similar traits in their hairstyles.