The makeup industry is one of the most money-moving in the world. When do we start putting on makeup? It’s not very clear. But now we have a new milestone in this story. It’s a 2700 year old face cream. The isotope analysis confirms this. It was excavated from an archaeological site in China.
With the cream in the grave
Cosmetics have a long history in China. However, its origin is unclear. It may have originated in the spring and autumn (770-476 BC), but little is known about its early manufacture and use. The Liujiawa site is located on the southern tip of the Loess Plateau in northern China. It was the late capital of the Rui State in the early and middle periods. The excavation was carried out there.
A grave identified as M49 of a man belonging to the aristocratic class was found. From there, a small and exquisite sealed container was excavated for supposed cosmetic use, a 2,700 year old face cream.
Limestone and fat
A stable isotope analysis of the residue in the container showed its properties. It was made from ruminant fat. It was mixed with monohydrocalcite made from ‘moon milk’, a special stalactite found in some limestone caves. Possibly used as a cosmetic face cream by the nobleman of the old state of Rui.
The authors published the study in the journal Archaeometry. This work provides an early example of cosmetic production in China. Together with the spread of similar cosmetic packaging during this period, this indicates the emergence of a young cosmetics industry. In addition, the exploitation of moon milk reflects other relationships. Like that of the early Taoist school and cosmetic manufacturing promoted by the aristocratic class.
Wouldn’t it be great if someone invented a similar cream around this time? There is no doubt: it would be a complete success.