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Cosmetics, Perfumes and Incense in Ancient Egypt

Cosmetics, Perfumes and Incense in Ancient Egypt

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Published by floresmari
COSMETICS, PERFUMES AND INCENSE IN
ANCIENT EGYPT
BY A. LUCAS
Cosmetics are as old as vanity. In Egypt their use can be traced back to almost the
earliest period of which burials have been found, and it continues to the present day.
The ancient Egyptian cosmetics included eye-paints, face-paints, and oils and solid
fats (ointments), all of which are here considered
COSMETICS, PERFUMES AND INCENSE IN
ANCIENT EGYPT
BY A. LUCAS
Cosmetics are as old as vanity. In Egypt their use can be traced back to almost the
earliest period of which burials have been found, and it continues to the present day.
The ancient Egyptian cosmetics included eye-paints, face-paints, and oils and solid
fats (ointments), all of which are here considered

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Published by: floresmari on May 13, 2013
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Egypt Exploration Society
Cosmetics, Perfumes and Incense in Ancient EgyptAuthor(s): A. LucasSource:
The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology,
Vol. 16, No. 1/2 (May, 1930), pp. 41-53Published by:
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41
COSMETICS,PERFUMES ANDINCENSE INANCIENT EGYPT
BYA.LUCASCosmeticsareasold asvanity.InEgypttheir usecan betraced backtoalmosttheearliestperiodof whichburialshavebeenfound,andit continuestothepresent day.TheancientEgyptiancosmeticsincludedeye-paints,face-paints,and oilsand solidfats(ointments),all ofwhicharehereconsidered.Eye-Paints.Thetwocommonesteye-paintsweremalachite(agreenoreofcopper)andgalena(adarkgreyoreoflead),theformerbeingtheearlierofthetwo,butbeing ultimatelylargelyreplacedbythelatter,whichbecame theprincipaleye-paintofthecountry.Bothmalachite andgalenaarefoundinthegravesinseveralconditions,namely,asfragmentsofthe rawmaterial,asstains onpalettesand stoneson whichthiswasgroundwhenrequiredforuseandinthepreparedstate(kohl),eitheras acompactmass ofthefinely groundmaterialmadeinto apaste(nowdry)ormorefrequentlyasapowder.MalachiteisknownfromtheBadarianandearliestpredynastic period12,3until atleasttheNineteenthDynasty4,whilegalenadoesnotappearbeforelatepredynastictimes3'5andcontinuesuntiltheCopticperiod4.Thecrudeformofbothmalachiteandgalenawas oftenplacedinthegravesinsmalllinenorleatherbags.Thepreparedformhas beenfoundcontainedinshells6,insegmentsofhollowreeds,wrappedin theleavesofplantsandinsmallvases,sometimesreed-shaped.When kohlisfound asamass,as distinctfromapowder,this hasoftenmanifestlyshrunk7,8andhasalsosometimesacquiredmarkingsfrom theinterior of thereceptacle7,from which it isevidentthat suchpreparationswereoriginally-intheconditionofapaste,which hasdried.Withwhatthe finepowderwasmixedto formthepastehasnot beendetermined,though,sincefattymatterisabsent7,theuseeither of waterorgumand waterseemsprobable.Thecompositionofthe ancientEgyptiankohl hasbeendescribedbyseveralwriters:forexample,byWiedermann9(fromanalysesbyFischer);byFlorenceandLoretlo(whoalsoquoteFischer'sanalysesand inadditiongiveparticularsof afewearlierones and
1G.Brunton,QauandBadari,1,63.
2
G. Brunton andG.Caton-Thompson,The BadarianCivilisation,31, 41, 85-87,99,102,103,109.
3W.M. FlindersPetrie,PrehistoricEgypt,43.
4
A.Wiedermann,VarietiesofAncientKohl,inJfedum,W.M.FlindersPetrie,42,43.
5
G.Brunton,op.cit.,13, 31,63,70.
6
Shellswere alsoemployedasreceptaclesforpigmentother thaneye-paint.7A.Wiedermann,op.cit.,42.
8
Particularlynoticedinthecaseofdrypastesinshells.9A.Wiedermann,op.cit.,41-44.
10A.Florence andB.Loret,Lecollyrenoiretlecollyrevert,inFouilles aDachour,J.deMorgan,
1895,153-164.
Journ. ofEgypt.Arch. xvi.6
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A.LUCAS
of twooftheirown);byBarthoux1(whoexaminedvariousspecimensthoughttobekohl)andbythe writer2(whohasanalysedalargenumberofspecimens,theresultsofafewofwhichhaverecentlybeenpublished)3.The resultsoftheanalysesreferredto,omittingthose ofBarthoux,which willbedealtwithseparately,show that the materialwasgalenain 37 cases outof584(approxi-mately64percent.),whiletherestincludedcarbonateoflead5(2);black oxideofcopper (1);brownochre(5);magneticoxideofiron(1);oxideofmanganese(6);sulphideofantimony6(1);malachite7(4),andchrysocolla,agreenish-blueore ofcopper(1).Itwill be seenthatonlyoneof thespecimensconsistedofanantimonycompoundandonlythreeotherscontainedany antimonycompoundandthoseonlyatrace,manifestlypresentasan accidentalimpurity.Thegeneralidea,therefore,that ancientEgyptiankohlalwayseither consistedof orcontainedantimonyor anantimonycom-poundiswrong,andhenceit ismostmisleadingto termitstibium(anearlyLatinnameforsulphideofantimony,transferred latertothemetal),as issometimes done.Themistakepossiblyarosefrom thefactthatamongtheRomansanantimony compound,calledby Pliny8stimmi andstibi,wasemployedineye-cosmeticsandeye-medicines.Lanestates9 that theordinaryEgyptiankohl of hisdayconsistedofsmoke-black(soot)madebyburningeitheracheapkind offrankincenseortheshellsofalmondsandthat thespecialqualityusedonaccountof itssupposdmedicinalpropertiescontained,besidescarbon,avarietyof otheringredients,which heenumerates,andwhichincludeleadore,butamongwhich thereisno mentionofanyantimonycompound.Thepresent-dayEgyptiankohl also consistsofsoot,madeaccordingtoBrunton'lbyburningthequrtumplant(Carthacmusinctorius),andisappliedbymeans ofasmallwooden,bone,ivoryormetalrod,thetipofwhichismoistened withwater anddippedintothepowder.Bruntonstatesthat these rodsonlybegantoappearin theEleventhDynasty,and hesuggeststhat before thattimethekohlwasputonwith thefinger.Budgefound1thatcertainspecimensof modernkohlfromthe Sudanconsistedofblackoxide ofmanganese.Barthoux'saccountofthecompositionofancientEgyptiankohll2isverydisappoint-ing,as thedatesandparticularsoforiginofthespecimens,aswellasthenumberofeachkindexamined,are omitted.Althoughthe correctnessof theanalyticalresults isnotquestioned,it isdoubtful whetherseveralof thespecimenswereeye-paintsandwhetherotherswereevencosmetics ofanysort.Thegreater proportionconsistedwhollyorpartlyofgalena;therestincludedcarbonate oflead;acompoundofantimonyand lead(theonlyoneinwhichanyantimony compoundoccurred);vegetableblack(i.e.sootobtainedbyburning vegetablematter);compoundsof arsenic(bothwithandwithoutadmixedironpyrites,somebeingorange-colouredandprobablynone ofthem
1J.Barthoux,Lesfards, pommadesetcouleurs dansl'antiquitd,CongresInt. deGeog.,LeCaire,Avril1925,Iv,1926,251-256.
2
A.Lucas,AncientEgyptianMaterials,59,104,146-7.
3
G.Brunton,op.cit.,70.
4
Two withtrace ofsulphideofantimonyand five with carbon.6One with traceofsulphideofantimony.6NineteenthDynastydate.
7
Onespecimenwasmixedwithresin,butFlorenceand Loret(op.cit., 161)contend that thiswasamedicinalpreparationand notkohl.
8
NaturalHistory,trans. J.Bostockand H.T.Riley (Bohn'sLibrary),
xxxIII,
33,34.9E. W.Lane,The Manners andCustomsoftheModernEgyptians(Everyman's Library),37.10G.Brunton,op.cit.,63.11E.A.WallisBudge,TheMummy,2nded.,1925,259.
12
The wordemployedis"fards,"whichisusedapparentlytomeaneye-paintsand notcosmeticsgenerally.
42
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