In our discussion in class this past Tuesday, Ethan talked a lot about the presence of eye palettes and their variations in the Egyptian mortuary contexts and etc. Of course this led to a small discussion regarding the ornamental eye make-up that has made Ancient Egyptians so easily recognizable. After touching on this in class, I became interested as to the significance of the product itself.
I came across a simple article while researching online that answered a couple of questions I did not even know I had about cosmetics in the ancient society. I can not say I was surprised to learn that make-up application was a daily practice in which both men and women participated in, but I was a bit stunned when I learned that the eye cosmetics held significance in medicinal, magical, and spiritual practices along with the ornamental ideas we recognize today.
There were two main types of makeup used in Ancient Egypt including Udhu and Mesdemet each possessing a different meaning regarding their application. The first was found in the lands of Sinai considered to be under the protection of the goddess of beauty, love, joy, and women, Hathor. This green hue, typically brushed across the whole lid by women, represented her protection of those wearing her mineral. The latter, Mesdemet, was made of lead, more specifically Galena and was used as our equivalent of eye liner. Galena proved to be a disinfectant, protect eyes from the sun, and keep flies and bugs away. The lead sulphide also provided remedy to many everyday eye irritants. The two together also represented a sort of psychic protection. Without decoration or adornment, it was thought that eyes would become more susceptible to the Evil Eye. So, in order to keep the demon psyche away, Egyptians would paint their eyes to represent a direct defense against the Evil Eye.
The use of eye make-up in the Ancient Egyptian society, although well known is also misinterpreted. With this new knowledge, I am now more aware of the ways Egyptian practiced their beliefs and acknowledged their problems on a daily basis. So, make-up was not always just for looks but served as a remedy and protector.