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World’s Oldest Lipstick Discovered in Iran

Oldest Lipstick Ever Found
Mineralogical composition of the oldest lipstick ever found. Credit: F. Zorzi / Scientific Reports / CC BY 4.0

In southeastern Iran’s Jiroft region, archaeologists discovered a small vial made of chlorite. Inside it was a deep red substance thought to be ancient lipstick.

The discovery was detailed in the journal Scientific Reports. Analysis showed that the red material contained minerals such as hematite, manganite, and braunite.

It also had traces of galena and anglesite. These minerals were mixed with plant waxes and other organic materials much like modern lipstick recipes.

Dating back to the early 2nd millennium BCE, this discovery sheds light on the ancient Marḫaši civilization, referenced in cuneiform texts from Mesopotamia at the time.

Professor Massimo Vidale, an archaeology professor at the University of Padua in Italy and one of the study’s authors, shared insights with Bored Panda via email. He said that in the world of five thousand to four thousand years ago, we knew about makeup recipes, eyeliners, and eye shadows but not about lip paints.

Ancient knowledge of chemical processing

The ancient people of the region of Mesopotamia had advanced knowledge of chemical processing and used various metal ores, which probably made their cosmetic products more complex. The Jiroft civilization, possibly the ancient Marhasi, thrived in a valley abundant with different types of rocks, which likely helped in the production of advanced cosmetics.

Containers for cosmetics discovered in burial sites indicate the significance of displaying particular social statuses even after death in early city societies. Professor Vidale highlighted that cosmetics were vital in ceremonies and funerals, showing the social rankings of that era.

Previously, archaeological findings mostly centered on white or light-colored substances. However, the discovery of deep red lip pigments brings a fresh perspective to our knowledge of ancient cosmetics.

The birthplace of lipstick

Even though there are no historical records or images from the Jiroft region, this discovery hints that it might be where lipstick was first used. Professor Vidale warned against making firm statements about being the “earliest evidence,” recognizing that new findings could change our view of ancient cultures.

The slim design of the lipstick vial and its fit with ancient mirrors suggest similarities between old cosmetic habits and modern beauty routines.

The Jiroft civilization is still a puzzle because many of its graveyards were looted and damaged in 2000 to 2001.

In 2001, the archaeological remains of the Jiroft civilization were unearthed when the Halil River flooded its basin in Kerman, a region in southeastern Iran. Moreover, this flood exposed several graveyards dating back to the 3rd millennium BCE.

Following this discovery, locals engaged in extensive looting, leading to the loss of thousands of valuable artifacts to the antiquities market, according to a recent study.

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