Answers to Quora Questions by Yair Davidiy (3 September 2017, 12 Elul, 5777)
Were Ancient Egyptians canonically white skinned and red-haired?
A few Egyptian mummies appear to have had red hair. It has been proven that at least in some cases this coloring was obtained artificially. Others claim that the added dye probably merely enhanced an existing trait. At all events, Egyptians were mostly darkish. Red hair was rare and considered foreign. It was associated with the god Set who came to represent certain other peoples. In Egyptian Mythology Set had killed and mutilated his own brother. Osiris, the murdered brother of Set, was resurrected by Isis. He then impregnated her with Horus who in turn was worshiped by Ancient Egyptians and Israelites in Samaria, northern Israel. On the other hand, Set was identified with the desert regions, and with the former Hyksos rulers of Egypt, and with the areas of Edom and Israel. Set had red hair, and for this reason people with red hair (according to Strabo) were regularly sacrificed in Egypt.
Frazer on the other hand links the sacrificed red headed victims with attempted personifications of Osiris:
â€˜With regard to the ancient Egyptians we have it on the authority of Manetho that they used to burn red-haired men and scatter their ashes with winnowing fans, and it is highly significant that this barbarous sacrifice was offered by the kings at the grave of Osiris. We may conjecture that the victims represented Osiris himself, who was annually slain, dismembered, and buried in their persons that he might quicken the seed in the earth. From James Frazer's, 'The Golden Bough.'