HomePOPULARAncient Lipstick Unearthed in Iran Rewrites Cosmetic History

Ancient Lipstick Unearthed in Iran Rewrites Cosmetic History

In a groundbreaking discovery, researchers in Iran have identified an ancient artefact that could revolutionize our understanding of cosmetics. Initially thought to be a vial of red paste, the item has been revealed to be an ancient tube of lipstick, dating back nearly 4,000 years to the Marhasi civilization in what is now eastern Iran.

Detailed in Scientific Reports, the lipstick is believed to date between 1936 and 1687 BCE. The artefact first came to light in 2001 when flooding along the Halil River in Iran unearthed several ancient graveyards, dislodging items from burials. Subsequently housed in the Archaeological Museum of Jiroft, the delicate container drew attention for its unique characteristics.

For the study, researchers analyzed the chemical composition of the lipstick, which appeared as “loose, dark purple fine powder.” Their analysis revealed a mixture of hematite, manganite, braunite, galena, anglesite, and plant-based waxes—a composition strikingly similar to contemporary lipstick recipes.

Crafted from greenish chlorite and adorned with intricate incisions, the container stands out for its unique design. While it shares similarities with other artefacts from the ancient Jiroft culture, its distinct features hint at standardized packaging and branding practices akin to modern cosmetics.

According to study co-author Massimo Vidale, the lipstick’s appearance suggests that cosmetic products in ancient times were traded in standard containers with specific forms, facilitating easy visual identification—a practice reminiscent of modern cosmetics.

Additionally, the research suggests that the lipstick may have been fragrant, as it contained vegetal fibres that could have imparted a scent. Despite uncovering details about the lipstick’s contents, the identity of its owners remains shrouded in mystery.

Cosmetics, often overlooked in ancient metallurgy, played a significant role in shaping social interactions and hierarchies in early cities, according to Vidale. This discovery underscores the importance of understanding ancient cosmetology practices and their broader cultural significance.

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