Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall at sunset

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ancient Beauty II

Wealthy women treasured their cosmetics and implements 1500 years ago as we do today. Below is a wood, bronze and carved bone cosmetic box that was excavated from Pompeii. You can see a mirror on the left and other implements and jars.

The cosmetic box shown below is especially fascinating to me. It's Egyptian and it has nothing to do with Eleri's Tale but it is such an amazing box!

It contains a pot, 2 vases, a pumice stone, a cosmetic dish, a pair of sandals and a kohl pot. It dates to about 1550 BC and was discovered in a tomb. There is something so incredibly poignant about that pair of sandals (bottom left of box).
The two spatulas below are made of silver and are about 6.5 inches long. They were designed to reach into long-necked glass bottles to retrieve the powders stored in them, such as ground azurite to color the eyelids blue.

In Eleri's Tale, my character watches her Romano-British mistress, Minacea, prepare for a banquet. The cosmetic slave uses spatulas such as these to mix the cosmetics for Minacea's face. Some of the ingredients used in ancient cosmetics were toxic, such as mercury and lead, used to whiten the skin.

Shown below is the world's oldest face cream, found in 2003 by archaeologists excavating a Roman temple on the banks of the River Thames. This little tin pot is 2,000 years old. The lid still bears the fingermarks of the person who last used it.

Now you may think I am crazy but I find those prints absolutely fascinating!


  1. What a shame that some of those pigments can't be found today. I'm always looking for new shades of blue to compliment my appearance.

  2. There is something relaxing about looking at those ancient fingerprints and shoes. My own reality seems less intense in this perspective.

    Thanks, Renee


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