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Shark teeth and bronze blades: our ancestors and their ancient razors

At Neville we cherish tradition.

To us, the act of shaving is a ritual; a cornerstone of what it means to be a man. Don’t get us wrong, we don’t discard the movements of modern grooming circles – far from it. We’re walking that progressive curve, we’re just keeping one foot in the past at the same time.

We find it fascinating to think how 32,000 years ago our ancestors were shaving their sloping jowls with the same steady hand that we do today. Let’s put that date in context. 32,000 BC – before Japan was inhabited; before the bow and arrow was invented; before the discovery of the Venus of Dolní Věstonice, the oldest known ceramic in the world, Neanderthal man was shaving his face with flint. That’s some heritage.

Although the removal of hair from the body goes back to 100,000 BC – when seashells were used as rudimentary tweezers – the first indication of shaving can be found in cave drawings some 70,000 years down the line.

What do these ancient chronicles tell us? That the metal razor of the modern day is a far cry from the Neanderthal’s wash bag. Prehistoric man shaved with clam shells, sharpened and oval-shaped flint and shark teeth.

Sourcing shark teeth may well have been fitting for a close shave, but as man evolved so to did his grooming habits and the tools used to fulfill them.

From the Early Bronze Age (about 3300-2200 BC) the development of metal work, as well as pioneering techniques such as smelting and alloying metals, meant that the first copper, iron and even gold razors could be created. In fact, solid gold razors were commonly found in ancient Egyptian tombs as it was believed that kings should be buried with a razor and a barber so that they could be as well-groomed in the afterlife as they were in this one. Whether or not the barber shared this sentiment we’re not so sure, but if ever there was proof that shaving was an act of great importance, surely this is it.

Further excavations reveal even more opulence. Excavated burial mounds in Denmark, dated between 1500-1200 BC, presented razors found in leather carry cases with carved horse-head handles and mythical murals etched into the bronze blades. Here was the razor taking its rightful place in the pantheon of man’s prized possessions.

From sharpened clam shells to decorated knives, the humble razor’s beginnings show we’re not so different from our ancestors. As with the act itself, shaving isn't only about following the contours; it’s about being part of them, moving with them, and moving with the times.

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