Home Makeup Tutorials Makeup and Beauty in Ancient Egypt

Makeup and Beauty in Ancient Egypt

Makeup and Beauty in Ancient Egypt

Hello everyone! I’m Dr. Colleen Carnell  and with me today is Michelle Coursey,   and we’re going to be answering your  questions about ancient Egyptian   makeup and cosmetics here on the Vintage  Egyptologist Youtube.

And earlier today we   filmed an incredible makeup tutorial that  you can check out at My Vintage Love blog,   yes on @myvintageloveblog on instagram  or Myvintagelove here on youtube,   and it was really fun we did a daytime 20s  look and then transitioned it to a flapper vamp   evening look it was really wonderful because,  because Colleen has a perfect 20s face, as you   know.

Thank you so much! I don’t think I can hear  that enough times. I know right never gets old So what I want to start with looking through  the hundreds of questions that we received   for this episode is with an object, and this  is a vanity set in the Metropolitan Museum of   Art.

It is from 1800 roughly BCE meaning that  it is 3,800 years old, and it looks just like   a modern vanity set. Doesn’t it? It really does.  I would 100 percent put this on my vanity – it’s   tiny and compact, which makes me think that we  would appreciate it now, and they would have   appreciated it in the 20s because there  was a lot of itty bitty tiny compacts,   and it was just large enough to actually have  a hand mirror, and of course you can’t do your   makeup without a mirror.

You definitely need a  mirror here to do your makeup. It’s fascinating   and we know that the surfaces would have been  polished. There’s a fabulous example also in   the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the handle  is gold and the mirror surface is silver, so if   you get to the same level in the case you can see  your face reflected in this mirror.

That’s amazing   and it would have been a relatively small mirror  to fit in the in the compact face yeah the uh that’s pretty you know you can definitely see  your face in that yes yeah that’s that’s really   amazing yeah and so the less expensive  models would have had polished bronze   but the queen who actually owned the gold and  silver mirror in the metropolitan museum of art   obviously coming from the absolute upper echelons  of society and how how much makeup was worn by all   classes versus just the upper classes in royalty  was it very much the prominence of of that world   or was everyone wearing it a makeup of some kind  that’s actually a really really great question   and it’s hard to say because of our source  material so most of the times when we see   depictions of farmers of people working out in  the fields making wine all of these day-to-day   activities that we see herdsmen for example in  old kingdom middle kingdom and new kingdom tombs   that’s an elite context that’s a wealthy tomb  owner depicting people and obviously they want   to show themselves an absolute finery and we know  that during festivals and ceremonies most people   probably aspired to have a full face of makeup  now the extent to which that happened on an   everyday basis like i said it’s very hard  to gauge because of our source material   so in ancient egypt was there makeup for special  occasions like weddings and things like that   so it’s really interesting that the annual  festivals that we know were really important   in communities like Thebes, modern day Luxor, as  well as all throughout Egypt each city had its own   festivals and then there seemed to have  been national festivals like the new years   which would have happened really end of july  beginning of august where everyone partook of   these massive ceremonies and drinking as well  as wearing your finest clothing and makeup   and wigs would have been a part of that but  it’s also really interesting looking at the   evidence from ancient egypt that we don’t have any  descriptions of wedding ceremonies oh interesting   yeah you would think wow with a society so focused  on religion and ritual yes weddings and marriage   yes were predominantly an economic affair in  terms of a bringing together of two estates   at the same time they were affairs of love and  so if you fell out of love with the person that   you had married you could divorce and remarry and  there wasn’t these elaborate religious rituals or   annulments that would be needed to make those  arrangements instead you would have an economic   renegotiation and we have that really well  attested in the ancient papyri so we’ve gotten a   little bit away from makeup interesting i just  think that’s we think about makeup for these   life-changing events and they certainly had that  yeah but not in exactly the same way okay can you   talk more about wigs and how that was used was it  a ceremonial purely ceremonial was it an everyday   thing um would men and women wear them what’s  tell me tell me more about wigs in engineering   so like makeup wigs were intended for both men and  women okay and like makeup wigs were intended to   enhance your appearance but just how lipstick is  not going to conceal your natural lip a wig did   not entirely conceal the existence of your hair  and if you look closely particularly there’s this   famous statue of a woman named Nofret and  her husband Rahotep and they are perfectly   absolutely perfectly preserved down to the inlaid  rock crystal in their eyes so that when you look   at these statues it looks as if they’re looking at  you wow and in both cases they are wearing makeup   which is really nice interesting to see yeah and  they’re both uh the woman is wearing a wig he is   not he’s wearing close cropped hair but we know  that in other contexts Rahotep just like Nofret   would have worn wigs but what i love  about that statue is that she’s wearing this very   large wig and typically they went larger on the  hairstyles wigs were made out of human hair and   often these very very elaborate the higher  they are the closer to god kind of thought   i had to see this okay and you can see her natural  hair right below the wig oh okay this is a statue   obviously if they didn’t want her natural hair  visible they would have changed that yeah they   didn’t have to include that but very often they  do so they’re acknowledging okay this is her real   hair it was probably pretty close cropped which  is what would have been comfortable in the heat   of ancient egypt but at the same time then you put  on that wig so wigs like makeup were especially   appropriate to these festival occasions a time  when the statues of the gods would come out from   the temples typically carried in portable barks  portable boats held on the shoulders of priests   and this would be a festival in which the entire  population could participate so unlike the sacred   space of a temple where the average person  could only go so far and certainly was not   part of the day-to-day ritual that was for priests  although and i’m getting way way off the topic of   makeup although i’ll talk about the whether priests  wore makeup in just a moment but it’s interesting   that not all priests in ancient Egypt were  professional priests oh so even though we talk   about priests doing certain things this is not a  separate class which i think is really it can be   in the new kingdom okay but a lot of times people  who were high priests even might have earlier in   their career been in the military been in the  civil service so it’s not as if you have priests   and then the rest of the egyptian population okay  during the middle kingdom for example at a time   when the man who owned that amazing vanity  set yeah that would have been a time where   a lot of people working in the temple would  have been rotating throughout the year so you   would really have a sense of what went on within  a temple complex interesting wow i always thought   priests were just a class entirely into themselves  you know almost from birth they were brought up as   priests but i you’re the professional i don’t know  that’s why it’s one of those things where the more   listen do you speak and john speak the more i  realize the less i know it’s my next phase of   knowledge well thank you but also i feel like it’s  really important to address these topics because   there’s so many misconceptions about how ancient  egyptian society functioned and i think that   knowledge of marriage and priests and things  that we might associate very strongly with egypt   that weren’t true at all and i think as a great  tie-in actually to our makeup tutorial earlier is   it’s all about the sources oh yeah so you have to  go back and read the hieroglyphic sources and say   okay is this a professional priest or is this  someone who’s rotating and we can see that in   the titles just like if you want to research a  1920s makeup look you don’t simply google 1920s   makeup look you go back to the advertisements  and the movies yes and the photos the photos   yes and that’s if there’s nothing else you take  away from any of our videos always go back to   the original sources know what your sources  are um you know looking watching the 1960-61   Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra is not going to tell  you what you need to know about ancient Egypt   um go read one of their lovely books or you  know do do look at the source material and   you know watch watch an actual claribo film  and instead of instead of you know watching   a youtube makeup tutorial on 1920s makeup um  if you really want to see what they were doing   that’s that’s definitely the best message i  can send about just history in general the   source material is always the best place to start  with the exception of the 20s makeup tutorials   and i’m really glad you mentioned cleopatra  because there were so many questions about   cleopatra in fact so many that she  really deserves her own episode yeah   so for those of you who really want to know about  cleopatra in detail you will have to wait but i do   want to address the changeover between pharaonic  egypt and the greco-roman period and since you   brought up elizabeth taylor and cleopatra  this really important point that one of the   queens of egypt that probably very rarely  wore ancient egyptian clothing and makeup   was cleopatra because she was greek is that  correct exactly cleopatra the seventh the famous   cleopatra is the last in the very long line  of kings that begins with ptolemy the first   one of the generals of alexander the great  who takes over egypt in 332 bce now we do not   know exactly what cleopatra would  have worn in her day-to-day life   but chances are both her clothing and her makeup  would have been in hellenistic greek style yes   now when she was in temples performing rituals for  example if you traveled to the temple of Dendera   in Upper Egypt dedicated to the goddess Hathor  who we’ll be talking about in more detail that   is where we have the most famous relief carvings  of cleopatra vii in fact those are the well-known   relief carvings in upper egypt in full egyptian  style and she’s dressed identically to someone   from over a thousand years earlier oh amazing  but some small variations i should actually say   so when she went to perform these rituals as an  egyptian queen then she might have worn the wig   then she might have applied the makeup  then she might have worn the clothes   but how you see in the movie where she  has and i don’t think any ancient egyptian   ever wore eyeliner that quite looks like  that because if we look at the ideal   of makeup we think of the boss of nefertiti and  that’s very subtle yeah i mean she just has the   ringed around the eye but then pulled out slightly  that’s pretty much it right in terms of eyeliner   yes very very very subtle and even her her lip  color is very subtle her blush is subtle so   quite the opposite from what we see in movies  like yes cleopatra yes but i love how that that   idea kind of came together and i just i just  really wonder like what what source material was   elizabeth taylor looking at and the makeup artist  for that to say yes that’s that’s the look we’re   gonna go for because i think she did actually a  lot of her own makeup in that movie which is also   is my understanding i should probably look  more into that but i i believe she did   quite a bit of her own makeup and then she would  go out with richard burton on the town and leave   some of the makeup on and get photographed by the  paparazzi and that’s how kind of how it became   such a big fed into the 60s eyeliner extravaganza  that was happening during the 60s um all the crazy   eye makeup so it’s you know feeding in into  each other which is just fascinating i think   and that’s that’s such a good point right that  movie makeup isn’t so much about the historical   time period yeah as it is about when the movie’s  being made exactly and i have exactly as well   claudette colbert’s look oh yeah and her cleopatra  and the height of 1930s bias cut oh yeah style   the brow you know the plucked out drawn on brow  it’s it’s so fascinating to watch that you know   yeah there’s probably cleopatra movie in every  decade i assume colbert elizabeth taylor   who else i’m having i’m drawing a blank but  i’m i’m i can almost bet money that in the 40s   caesar and cleopatra yes oh yes and she’s oh she’s  so beautiful um but yeah also it’s you know every   every movie made is told through the lens that  it’s filmed in and i feel like in the last 20   years like we’ve certainly i think they try to be  more realistic but we’re still through the lens of   the 2010s and it’s it’s just the way it’s always  going to be so but that is really interesting and   back to what we’re seeing before source material  um is is always the place you want to you want to   start and it’s always fascinating to see the lens  any movie at any thing through the lens it was   filmed in and you can take that as inspiration but  you know source material is king absolutely yeah   talk to me a little bit about facial hair on  men fake real all that good stuff i think this   is another great myth yeah that exists in the  modern world about ancient egypt is that kings   wore these goatees right that’s kind of the image  we have in our mind from the statuary right but if   you go back to king Djoser roughly 2650 bce he’s  the guy buried in the step pyramid okay so yeah we   went there exactly amazing site Saqqara one of my  favorite sites in egypt and there was a statue   in a chamber just to the north of the actual  step pyramid actually joins uh the step pyramid   and in that chamber was a statue of king Djoser and when it was cleaned it was realized that   he had a mustache oh that was unusual i would  i would think but it actually isn’t a lot of   it is that our source material we tend to  think about images but if you start looking   for mustaches they’re surprisingly common really  particularly in the old kingdom so Rahotep  that we were just talking about and his wife know  fred yeah he has really a douglas fairbanks junior   style 1930s movie star mustache i love that  okay what were they using to shave back then   they had razors really there are so many razors  known from ancient egypt and my favorite are   razors so they’re made out of copper or bronze  they would have obviously been sharpened yeah   and some of them even had a combination tweezer so  that you had you could use your tweezer and then   use your razor wow and during the middle  kingdom so the time of that vanity set   both mustaches and beards were pretty common the  mummy masks in the middle kingdom could actually   show combination of beard goatees mustaches  which is neat and even if we look at those   royal depictions of the king wearing the goatee  if you look carefully most of the statues show a   strap that connected yeah i was gonna ask about  that beard okay that’s not the pharaoh’s   beard that’s a false beard that’s put on for  ritual activity okay yeah that’s what i that   was my vague understanding of it yeah strictly  ritual thing to put on during ritual um to   appease the gods like what was the to look like  a god like what was the thought of the dress   that you were supposed to have so it was part of  the pharaoh of the king’s ceremonial attire okay   in the early part of Hatshepsut’s reign where  she’s showing herself as a woman wearing a dress   she does not wear the false beard okay  and it is only when she shows herself   fully male that she then wears the beard  okay so it’s not as if she and we don’t know   just like when we were talking about cleopatra  we can’t be certain what she actually wore   day to day right but we can assume  what she wore for the temple rituals   we actually don’t know what Hatshepsut as a  female king which was a very unusual occurrence   even in ancient egypt what she would have  worn.

It’s possible she would have worn   a dress with a kilt tied over it and then maybe  did put on the false beard it’s really difficult   to say okay and the false beard would have  been only something pharaohs would have worn   period it wasn’t that like a normal everyday  thing as far as we can tell okay yes now whether   some people decided to wear it who knows as far  as we have it depicted it is a strictly royal   accoutrement okay now there’s also a type of  beard that is for the gods and that tends to   be longer and curved at the end okay and that  is something that marks a god like osiris   the king can then have that beard when he is  osiris in the afterlife so for example there   are some statues of Hatshepsut in the guise  of osiris and she has that beard okay interesting   wow um i think the cosmetic that people associate  with ancient egypt the most is kohl and talk to   me about that what was it used for what was it  made out of was everyone wearing it yeah kohl for the ancient egyptians was galena this black  colored eye paint which they also had green or   likely malachite and we know from tactual evidence  particularly this letter that only the highest   quality galena was worthy of the pharaoh and if  it did not achieve a certain level of quality   it could be sent back and it’s this amazing  document where the high priest is taking this   man to task for not sending high quality enough  galena for pharaoh’s eye paint did they have it   was basically just black and green do they have  any blue or anything like that or was it just inspired it’s interesting we   know that the egyptians used both turquoise and  lapis lazuli for jewelry so it is possible that   either one could have been used in rare cases okay  for makeup application but typically when we have   lists of makeup it’s the “mesdemet” the galena  or the kohl and it’s the “wadjet” which is the   green the malachite okay interesting that would  have been i guess i’m just geeking out about the   makeup artist i like to know about the intensity  of color would have been in a very intense green   for the would have yeah it would  have been more of a subtle green   i wish we knew yeah i mean because what we have  is we have the depictions of them right so it’s   it would be amazing to go back in time and see  what the makeup actually looked like that i   think that the bust of nefertiti shows in a  pretty accurate way a makeup a full makeup look   from the 18th dynasty right normally other  statuary has a stylized representation   so did they really have eyeliner did they  really have coal that was that strong yeah   we can’t say yeah because that’s what they  chose to commemorate in their art and a final   question that i wanted to tackle was permanent  skin enhancement oh which is tattooing yeah   the oldest figural tattoos anywhere in the  world are on an ancient egyptian natural mummy   oh wow around on the face it’s on the shoulder  okay yeah it’s on the shoulder so this is body   adornment in general but no no no tattooed makeup as  far as we can tell although there is a very large   udjat eye that’s on one woman’s neck oh wow  and we know of these tattoos because they   survive on the skin of mummies oh wow that’s  really interesting so they actually had a full   jet eye on her neck yes wow and we  know how they were doing that like the   needles just over and over again in the skin  with ink one assumes which charcoal with   charcoal seems to be holy cow that must have  been and that wasn’t jewelry i mean she has   quite a number of tattoos this female mummy and  this is a fairly recent discovery because of new   photography techniques being able to capture the  tattoos on mummies so we’ve known for a long time   that mummies could have tattoos because you can  see them visually very clearly just with the naked   eye but with infrared photography we’re starting  to capture more and more of those tattoo images   oh wow because they’re obviously not unwrapping  the mummy they can just photograph it through   infrared photography these are bodies that are  already unwrapped but then photographing the skin   using the infrared spectrum wow you can pull  that out that’s very cool i have no idea so that   that you’re saying that is the earliest known  tattoos basically the earliest figural tattoos   that we can definitively trace and date are  from the nile valley okay wow learning so much   and did you want to talk about  skin care in ancient egypt as well   so the egyptians had quite a lot of oils and  fats that they would have used for skin care   now we don’t know anything chemically about  sunblock we do have depictions from the early   middle kingdom from the brain of manchester ii  of a woman beneath a parasol oh so that was one   option for uh skin care in ancient egypt in terms  of blocking out the sun physically yeah which is   great 1920s uh connection obviously and in  other cases it was probably a whole range   of very very expensive scented onions for the  higher classes and then probably pretty simple   animal fat used as a moisturizer for a  much larger segment of the population   okay i just i just don’t know how comfortable  that was i can just imagine very hot climate   and then putting animal fat on yourself i just  buy small questions well okay small quantities   and can obviously be mixed yeah oh so more like  a moisturizer kind of that’s how i that’s how i’m   imagining okay i just think i hear your animal fat  i’m like crisco no no no no as a tiny ingredient as a binder exactly as opposed to something like  an oil that was very expensive to produce okay   and something i’ve always heard and you tell  me if this is completely wrong is um of the   putting the perfumed combs of wax on their head  and it would melt and is that did that happen   okay i’m so glad you mentioned that i did not  want to end this before we discussed perfumed   wax coats excellent and what is exciting about  this is one was actually found on a mummified   body oh wow in middle east so they were buried  with them occasionally at least one person was   wow so this was a debate up until this moment  is are those perfumed or scented wax cones   an artistic license or is this something  that people did particularly during festivals   during parties so not a wedding party but  a funerary banquet the new year’s festival   these times when people would come together  and dine and feast and drink both beer and wine   is that you would put one of these  scented cones on your on top of your wig   and as the night wore on it would melt  and then you would have this nice scent   oh wow emanating from your wig and that  enhanced the festival atmosphere because myrrh   incense in ancient egyptian is symmetry  which literally means to make divine   so by putting on that nice scent you are enhancing  the entire experience because to burn incense in   the temple is to literally make the god manifest  wow that’s interesting i think that i wonder if   their concept of smell was different than ours  was because i think of a bunch of bodies being   in a warm room and this warm temperature with  the wax and the just everything happening and i   wonder what to our modern day you know nose would  that what would that smell like what would it be   like to be in that room with all of those scents  going on would be fascinating and everyone was   sniffing lotuses oh my gosh there would have been  a lot of smell a lot of flowers perfumed onions   so it was potentially a very rich yes sensory  environment yes and then the makeup and everything   just the wigs and everything happening i can only  only imagine what it was like wow well thank you   so much for joining me michelle thank you for  having me it was wonderful i learned so much   there are so many questions left to answer so as  john and i always say in our youtube videos here   it’s going to be another episode so there’s an  entire episode in cleopatra an entire episode on   the religious significance i said we were going  to get to hawthorne sadly we did not quite get   to her but the goddess who is the patroness of  makeup and cosmetics precisely because she is   the goddess who personifies the eye of the sun but  to really get into that concept we need a lot more   of the background of her myth and how painting  your eye was also an act of devotion and ritual   i like that idea a lot so don’t forget to  subscribe here on vintage egyptologist and then   see the full 1920s makeup tutorial at my vintage  love blog and we’ll see you in a future video


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