For my research paper, I intend to examine the beautification process of Ancient Egyptians, what it meant, and how it impacted them. This has always interested me – while many aspects of human culture have changed in the thousands of years since the time of Ancient Egypt, the idea of altering our appearances to beautify ourselves has remained the same. I plan on focusing on three different main types of beautification steps: makeup (eye paints and face paints), perfume, and oils. I don’t plan on focusing on a specific time period, but instead I will discuss how the application of these cosmetics differed throughout the years. I will also talk about the materials that they used to make the different substances, and where they came from. For example, oils made during the second millennium BC usually came from sesame, horseradish and almond, while malachite and galena made up some of the eye makeup during the predynastic time period. Pertaining to the eye paints, I will narrow in on the use of kohl, because through my research so far I have found that this was a major aspect of eye makeup for the Ancient Egyptians (for example, how it was made, who used it, etc).
How individuals present themselves is a huge way to better understand the culture in question. Archaeology is the study of human societies in the past, and since beautification was such a large part of their culture, it can help us to learn more about what distinguished the elite from the poor, who presented themselves in “beautiful” ways and who was not able to, and what it meant to them. Just as straight teeth and tan skin means beauty to our culture, dark eyes and strong smelling perfumes meant beauty to them.
Surprisingly to me, finding sources for this paper was harder than expected. However, with the use of the MSU library, I have found enough resources to help me research this topic. Among the sources I have found so far, an article titled “Cosmetics, Perfume and Incense in Ancient Egypt,” will help me quite a bit. I have also found another article from the American Journal of Archaeology, titled “The Production of Perfumes in Antiquity: The Cases of Delos and Pasetum,” and while it focuses on ancient perfume in general, it specifically talks about Egyptian perfume quite often, because, as the article states, “ancient perfume is well attested in texts from the Egyptian Old Kingdom…” I have also found an article from the New York Times titled, “Ancient Egypt’s Toxic Makeup Fought Infection, Researchers Say.” It gives some valuable information on the background of their makeup, and it also discusses the health benefits it may have served (the low dosage of lead fought off the eye infections that bacteria from the Nile might have caused). This is just one example of how beautification was an important part of Egyptians lives. While these sources will be my main sources, I have also found some other ones that will help to further my research.
The Production of Perfumes in Antiquity: The Cases of Delos and Paestum Jean-Pierre Brun American Journal of Archaeology , Vol. 104, No. 2 (Apr., 2000), pp. 277-308 Published by: Archaeological Institute of America Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/507452
Cosmetics, Perfumes and Incense in Ancient Egypt A. Lucas The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology , Vol. 16, No. 1/2 (May, 1930), pp. 41-53 Published by: Egypt Exploration Society Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3854332
Bhanoo, Sindya. “Ancient Egypt’s Toxic Makeup Fought Infection, Researchers Say.” New York Time. N.p., 18 Jan. 2010. Web. .