As fellow Voynich researchers may know, finding parallels for headdresses worn in the Voynich manuscript can be easy and hard at the same time. Easy, because many hats from many periods look alike, so one can, with some perseverance and eye-squinting, find a similar one in a variety of contexts. Hard because, well, for the same reason. There’s a relatively high risk of false positives.
That is why I decided to take a step back now, and make an inventory of the kinds of headgear we can see in the manuscript. Since the figures are relatively small, this is not an easy task, but I have attempted to sort them as objectively as possible.
Many nymphs have nothing on their heads, only hair.
That was easy! Wait… was it? For example, the nymph bottom right, is she wearing a hair net of some sorts, or is that her hairline? And the one bottom left, is she wearing some kind of hairband or diadem, or is her hair just combed sideways? At this scale, it’s hard to be certain about the details – they look much bigger on the screen than they are on the page. Luckily, some other cases are more obvious. In the following analysis, I will not specifically address the figures without headgear.
The Calendar Section
Many different kinds of hats are found around the twelve month roundels. If we look at the section as a whole, we notice something strange. In the first roundels (1, 2, 3, 4), lots of color is applied and there is a large variety of headgear. These are the nymphs that are sitting in barrels.
The fifth roundel (dark bull) has both barrel nymphs and standing ones. Here the headgear is still abundant, but hardly any color has been applied, allowing us to see more detail in the line work.
In the image below, a representative nymph has been selected for each roundel. (1) is the first one, (2) the second one and so on. This will hopefully show the reader how the headgear, and indeed the figures themselves, evolve throughout this section.
In six, seven and eight, headgear becomes rare and is, apart from some exceptions, restricted to some basic forms. The same is true for the final four roundels, but here some nymphs have gotten what I call the dark diadem. Examples are 9, 10 and 13 in the image above. It appears as if these have been added in a different pen to an existing figure. Since this is a complex feature, I will keep it for a later post.
The difference in the amount and type of paint that has been applied can make it difficult to interpret the type of headgear correctly. Let’s consider the examples below, all from various month roundels. Looking at the colorful item top left, one would think that this is a wide-brimmed hat or some kind of cushion that has been placed upon the head.
If we compare it to some unpainted examples of a similar shape, however, we notice more details. The example top right appears to be some type of turban, with bands of fabric wrapped around the head. Something similar is seen bottom right, though this example is smaller and has been colored with a clear type of paint. The nymph bottom left appears to be wearing a patterned roll of some kind. The pattern clearly suggests the curve of the material. All this leads me to believe, like many researchers before me, that the heavy paint distorts the original appearance of the imagery.
Considering the types of headgear, then, we see a number of categories. First, the crowns. These three crowns are each found in a different month roundel. It is interesting to note that two of them have been added in darker paint, while the one in the middle appears to have been drawn at the same time as the human figure. EDIT: Nick Pelling wrote that he considers the red crown the “real deal” and the others fake in this June 2015 post. I agree that it looks like that is the case.
Second, a voluminous roll or brim or wrap around the head. There is quite some variety even within these examples. Most of these were taken from the first month roundels.
Thirdly, something similar, yet with a little circle on top. These hats are relatively rare and only appear in the first month roundels. They are usually worn by man-like nymphs, with one unambiguous exception (the bottom one in the image below).
The calendar section also features veils of all kinds and sizes. Many veils are marked with a dotted line, possibly indicating a certain material. It is often not clear whether something is supposed to represent long hair or a veil, though most of the ones below are obvious. The two red-shirted women in the bottom of the middle column are dubious examples.
There are many examples of smaller headgear, but it’s often hard to tell what exactly is going on. They could be small veils, hair nets, diadems or even elaborate hair styles.
And then there’s this man (?) with a small hat or band that has two structures on the side, like curved horns or some other kind of extension.
I believe most hats found in the calendar section can be placed in one of the above categories. However, there are many (many!) unclear examples so it is far from exhaustive.
Quire 13, the “bathing section”, part A
In Quire 13, there are, in my opinion (and that of others), two kinds of folios. There are those where the nymphs are more homogeneous, with often all nymphs within the same pool looking more or less the same. On the other hand, there are what I call the narrative folios, where each nymph looks more like an individual, often with a special attribute. As expected, bold fashion statements are rare in the “homogeneous” type.
For example, in the first folio (f.75r), we see this pool. All nymphs wear a similar diadem- hair net – veil. Only the one top right is distinguished with a large diadem or crown. Note how this queenly figure is also larger. Readers accustomed to my thoughts about the manuscript and with some knowledge about ancient conventions on perspective will understand why this is important, though it is not the subject of this post.
If we compare all non-narrative folios (those with basic nymphs standing around in pools), we notice a few common types of headgear (apart from “none”). I have listed them in the image below. The first two examples are a bit ambiguous, because it is not clear whether the thing on the head is meant as some kind of hat or an elaborate hair style. the first line (1) almost certainly looks like hair to me. The second line, which I called “horizontal head roll”, might be some kind of headdress, but it could be hair as well. (This was a popular hair style for wealthy women in the Roman empire).
Number 3, “wavy”, looks like the dark diadem, though here it is applied in the same ink as the figure itself. The fourth line is also common, a small, dotted thing worn on the hair. The bottom line shows some varieties, where it looks more unambiguously like a diadem.
There are a number of clear exceptions in these folios. Two of these look like an ornate version of one of the basic types. The lady bottom right with red hair and a somewhat pointy hat or diadem is the most individualized figure.
About the non-narrative folios in Quire 13 then, I conclude that the hats are fairly uniform. This is in line with what separates these folios from the rest of Quire 13: less individualization in the human figures. However, a small number of figures are still marked with more elaborate headgear, making them stand out.
Quire 13 B
Moving on to the more individualized quire 13 folios then. I was surprised to see how many nymphs in these folios are hatless. There are also some themes in common with the rest of Quire 13. For example, the Dark Diadem is back with a vengeance:
Similarly, as seen in the image below, the dotted “thing” is back, here mostly combined with what looks like a veil. Below those, the “horizontal head roll”, which is still a popular choice. Finally, the bottom row shows two nymphs with a striped “thing”.
So there are parallels between both types of folios in Quire 13. However, as expected, there is more variety in the “narrative” folios. Below, for example (1) shows what might be a variation of the horizontal head roll, though the endings pop up, almost like animal ears. (2) shows what looks like a blue wig (Egyptian style?). (3) is wearing a rectangular item topped with a “dark diadem”. Finally, (4) looks a bit ambiguous: is this a diadem, or a colored version of the “head roll”?
Another ambiguous case is seen on folio 83r. The figure appears to be wearing a wig or head scarf like (2) above, but this is topped with a cone and a star. From this star flows a long tail, which is held by the figure on top and ends up in the water. It is unclear which elements are considered headgear and which ones belong with the figure on top. My guess would be that wig+cone+star+tail is all part of the bottom figure.
There are some figures with a relatively small colored band, though all somewhat different.
Finally there are a number of crowns or tiaras here as well. Some of them look like the horizontal head roll with an ornament on top. Two crowns (bottom row) are with a number of circles.
There are quite a number of other human figures and faces scattered throughout the manuscript. I generally treat these separately, just like the central figures in the month roundels.
As we all know, the archer is sporting a unique hat:
The male Twin and Virgo are shown with the same hat in a different color, and a similar hairdo to match. This adds fuel to the rumors that Virgo is a guy in a dress. One difference is that a red detail has been added under Virgo’s hat.
On the female twin we see a blue hair band or diadem, above which her hair emerges. I have added the two hatted figures from f85r as well for comparison. I’m not sure what is going on with the bottom left figure. Either he’s half bald or wearing a white skull cap. The one bottom left appears to be wearing a blue skull cap, but his hair is visible above it. Once again it looks like the paint and the line work don’t fully agree.
Moving on then, there are a number of small faces on f67v, one of which might be wearing a veil, another one a pointed hat. The Sun-face on f68v has been given some kind of narrow hair band.
Finally, there are a total of eight faces in the roots of plants. Only one of these is wearing a hat. This is an interesting figure, because there are not many faces in the botanical sections. Unfortunately, the face is very small and unclear, so I tried to enhance it a bit on the right, without much succes – we can only work with what’s on the page.
The hat might be similar to the “horizontal head roll” common in Quire 13, though this is hard to tell. One aspect in favor of this interpretation is that a veil or long hair has been added, which, just like the head roll, is usually reserved for women in the Voynich.
There are many different hats in the manuscript, but it is possible to divide them into a number of types + exceptions. Crowns and elaborate headgear are usually unique, while smaller pieces appear often.
I was surprised to see that there was little continuity across sections. One kind of headgear is common in both main nymphy sections (month roundels and quire 13): the small dotted “thing”, which is likely some kind of veil or hair net. Usually though, one can tell by the hat from which section a nymph was taken. For example, the “horizontal head roll” is typical for quire 13.
Additionally, we have seen that the types and depiction of headgear changes from one month roundel to the next. The first ones often feature large, varied hats in thick paint, while later on hats become more subtle and less varied.
Finally, our hat typology has also confirmed that there are two kinds of folios in quire 13. There is little variety in the “generic nymphs in pools” folios, while many nymphs in the narrative folios sport unique hats or crowns.