They analyze the makeup composition of Roman times

They analyze the makeup composition of Roman times

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A study carried out jointly by researchers from the Merida Consortium, the University of Granada (UGR) and the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain has analyzed a makeup case from roman times (1st century AD) that still contained remains of the stored product. The results of the study have been published in the journalSaguntum.

The find dates back to the year 2000, when the work of adaptation and construction of a new industrial warehouse, in what was the old capital of the Lusitania, Augusta Emerita (current Mérida), were accompanied by an archaeological excavation that made it possible to exhume a funerary area dating from the 1st AD.

One of the tombs attracted attention due to the presence of the cremated remains of the possible deceased with an interesting funerary deposit.

Among the objects that were found are ceramic cups, bone spindles that commemorate the textile practice of the deceased, pieces of glass (among which some ungüentaries stood out to contain perfumed oils) or the remains of a removable bone box.

To this must be added a huge amount of nails, which could refer to a lectus funerary (bed) that ended up calcined during cremation.

Sealed content: makeup from the Roman era

In this place a malacological specimen ofpecten maximus(scallop) with the two valves intact sealing the interior content. Both parts had two small holes in the ‘ears’ that, from a series of silver filaments, allowed their closure.

Once the mollusk is opened, it was possible to document, in addition to the sediment that had leaked, remains of cosmetics, specifically, a small ball of powdery conglomerate of pinkish color partially crumbled in some places.

Given the nature of the find and its weak consistency, a sampling protocol was initiated that would allow, first, its conservation and, second, that favored a later compositional archeometric analysis. Analysis of the pinkish ball indicates that it is composed of chaff lacquer androse madder obtained from the use of cold alum as a fixative.

The use of scallops to house cosmetic products is a widely used resource for those of solid and semi-solid consistency, especially, given the cost and difficult access of the star support, alabaster, recruited almost exclusively in the Naukratis quarries in Egypt.

The use of malacological support as a container for cosmetics is very ancient, Tiny shells exist in the Sumerian city of Ur in 2500 BC. which already contained pigments used for cosmetic purposes.

The more affluent classes, on the other hand, used boxes (pyxis) that typologically emulated shells but in more luxurious supports, such as amber or precious metals.


Ana M. Bejarano Osorio, Macarena Bustamante-Álvarez, José V. Navarro Gascón, Susanna Marras, Ángela Arteaga Rodríguez. "Archaeological and Archaeometrical Study of the Cosmetic Remains Contained in a Malacological Pyxis from Augusta Emerita (Mérida, Badajoz)".Saguntum.(2019).

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