A Brief History of Head Lice

Ancient History

3,100 – 332 BC, Egypt: Head lice have been causing itchy heads for quite a while. The ancient Egyptians were tortured by the louse. Massive amounts of energy and brain power was expended in attempts to kick out these diminutive parasites. We know this because among the multitudes of ancient Egyptian artefacts, mummified corpses and ornate tombs uncovered, archaeologists have also discovered ancient Egyptian head lice remedies.

These include digesting a portion of date meal and water, served warm and then spat out. Egyptian priests also had a novel way of treating infestations. They used to shave their entire body so that the lice had nowhere to hide. Not the most scientific of methods but at least they were trying.

8,000 BC, Brazil: The world’s oldest known head lice – actual nits discovered on a human head – were found at an archaeological dig in northeast Brazil. The specimen was at least 10,000 years old. Lice have also been discovered in Israel dating back 2000 years and culled from hair combs.

Middle Ages Onwards:

Despite the best efforts of Egyptian priests, lice and homo sapiens were constant companions throughout the Middle Ages. They also didn’t discriminate. Lice infected all parts of society from serfs to royals.

1025, Peru: To prove that head lice was a truly worldwide problem, two 1,000 year old Peruvian mummies were discovered with an abundance of head lice in 2008. One of the specimens had 407 lice on its head. The other one had an impressive 545.

15th Century, Mexico City: According to founder of the University of Mexico Francisco Cervantes de Salazar the Aztecs in Mexico City tried hair dye to get rid of the lice. They used a product called ‘zoquitl’, which both dyed their hair and was supposed to get rid of lice.

19th Century, United States: Some of the earliest head lice artefacts come from early 19th century US. The Wisconsin Historical Museum has a bone lice comb found in Fort Crawford, dating back to frontier days.

20th Century:

1939 – 1945 Europe: The terrifying trenches of WWII seemed the perfect breeding ground for head lice. In actual fact WWII is one of the rare times in human history when lice were not really an issue. This was due to the common use of a potent pesticide designed principally to wipe out malaria-causing mosquitos but which had the added benefit of helping keeping head lice at bay. Not that this was a long term solution as this particular pesticide was highly toxic.

1960s, homes around the world: Homemade treatments have become more and more popular since the 1960s as the spread of head lice has increased with millions of cases annually. As seen with the ancient Egyptians these remedies have existed as long as the lice themselves. Before the advent of sophisticated modern treatments a variety of household items were used. These included everything from mayonnaise and Vaseline to baby oil and gasoline!

21st Century:

Head lice treatment has now moved from the kitchen to the medicine cabinet with sophisticated scientifically proven methods to remove head lice painlessly and quickly. Today, Lyclear is the number 1 head lice brand in Europe.