COSMETICS. Any of the various preparations used for beautifying the hair and skin. Such practices were regarded with disfavor by the writers of Holy Writ. Jezebel, Ahab’s wicked queen, painted her eyes immediately prior to her death (
COSMETICS. The Bible makes only limited reference to cosmetics—perfume, ointment, and eye paint are the usual kinds named.
The item most frequently found in Palestinian excavations, which is unmistakably identified with cosmetics, is the small limestone bowl or palette. These were made from hard stone, about four inches in diameter, with a flat base and a small, somewhat hemispherical, cavity in the top center. The rim was usually decorated with incised carving. They were used to prepare colors for the face, by means of small pestles and spatulas. These palettes were common in the northern part of the country, from the 10th cent. b.c. on, and seem to have been imported from Syria.
Green color was derived from malachite or turquoise, and used to paint the lower eyelids; while black came from manganese (puk) or antimony (kuhl), and was applied to the eyebrows and lashes. Red ocher was used to add lip color. Large numbers of small pottery juglets, usually fired in a reducing atmosphere to produce a lustrous and burnished black finish, also come from the excavations of this period. The most probable usage of these would have been as perfume containers. Some ivory ointment flasks are known, while “perfume boxes” are mentioned in
In addition to the minerals named above, galena and stibnite also were ground in the palettes. These powders were then mixed with water or gum before application. The powder was likely stored and carried in pouches, though in
Perfume and ointment.
Perfumes were very popular in ancient times, and a minimum list of eighteen or twenty kinds can be extracted from the Bible. They were used for adornment Song of Solomon, as lavish gifts (
Powder and rouge.
Ancient peoples of the Near E used power and rouge, red and yellow colors being obtained from ochers, and white from lead carbonate. Both of these materials are known from excavations, and other sources indicate the use of powder puffs in Egypt. The only Biblical reference to powder, in the cosmetic sense, is in the
R. Lamon and G. Shipton, Megiddo I (1939), pl. 96, 108-111; C. Singer, et al., A History of Technology I (1954), 285-295; G. Wright, “Israelite Daily Life,” BA Vol. XVIII, No. 3 (Sept. 1955), 50-79; R. Forbes, Studies in Ancient Technology III (1965), 1-50.