Friday, May 4, 2012

Cosmetic Containers in Bactrian Tombs

One of the more numerous items found in the tombs that were uncovered by official excavations and by casual finds or illicit digging are the vessels for a substance called kohl.  It is a black, waxy material that was widely used in the Middle East and Egypt as a beautifier and a protector for the eyes.  Even modern mothers will apply kohl to their children's eyes when going out with them.  Men also wear kohl to protect their eyes.  The old American movies that show the Sheik of Araby wearing heavy eye make-up was not just a mistake by the movie's make-up artist.

Evidently the Bactrian woman would not be caught without it; even in death, her cosmetic flask was stored in the tomb with her.  Many such flasks with this typical decorative motif have been collected from the tombs.

Three Thousand Year Old Steatite Cosmetic Flask -- Contact me through the private message form above right.

This ancient flask that once contained cosmetics was found in the ruins of ancient Bactria in Afghanistan. The vessel, once found, would have been taken to the nearest city to an antiques merchant and sold. The antiques merchant then sold it to an international dealer and we bought it for our collection from that dealer. For assurance that this is Bactrian, you can consult the work of Dr. Victor Sarianidi and the Ligabue Institute such as Victor Sarianidi, Necropolis of Gonur, Athens, 2007 and Giancarlo Ligabue and Sandro Salvatori, Bactria, Venice, 198-

A simple striation forming cone shapes decorates this kohl flask. Kohl became an essential cosmetic and eye protector throughout the southern parts of the Middle East, South Asia and parts of Africa. It is still popular on the sub-continent. Some ingredient in the kohl was believed to repel insects and the shading around the eyes somehow guarded the wearer from evil influences. 

Kohl came to be regarded as an enhancement of beauty. Women all over the world now apply a similar cosmetic to accentuate the shape and luminosity of their eyes. 

Often these flasks were equipped with very fanciful applicator wands, some with animal figures worked in precious metal, others with geometric designs. Most of the time, archeologists do not find the applicator with the flask. It may be that the applicator was not a part of the flask but a separate possession to be carried with the person to whom it belonged and used in different flasks of cosmetic materials. 

At some point in the three thousand years or more of its existence, this flask was cracked at the edge of one corner, but not broken through the wall of the flask. Otherwise it is much as it was when created. It still has some of the Bactrian soil stuck on one side. 

This flask measures 4.8 cm (1.9 in) high x 2.7 cm (1 in) x 3 cm (1.2 in)

For purchasing information Contact me through the private message form above right.

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