A Bronze Age lip-paint from southeastern Iran
A small chlorite vial, discovered among numerous artifacts looted and recovered in the Jiroft region of Kerman province, southeastern Iran, contains a deep red cosmetic preparation that is likely a lip-coloring paint or paste. Through analytical research involving XRD (X-ray diffraction), SEM-EDS (scanning electron microscopy-energy-dispersive spectroscopy), and HPLC-MS (high-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry) analyses, the mineral components of the reddish substance were identified as hematite, darkened with manganite and braunite, and traces of galena and anglesite, mixed with vegetal waxes and other organic substances. The mixture, thus observed, bears a striking resemblance to the recipes of contemporary lipsticks. We also report the first radiocarbon date ever obtained from a Bronze age cosmetic in the ancient Near East: results place the pigment in the early 2nd millennium BCE, a date compatible with several mentions of the powerful eastern-iranian civilization of Marḫaši in coeval cuneiform texts of Mesopotamia, as well as with its currently emerging archaeological picture.
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