Cosmetic Palette

Contributed by Brent Museum

Cosmetics palettes like this one were used to grind cosmetic paints, such as galena or green malachite, with a pebble. There is a slightly polished area on the palette where the grinding would have occurred. The earliest cosmetic palettes are dated to 5000 BC and were rectangular. This one was made between 3400-3300 BC and would have been used by someone in the middle classes. It is made from mudstone, which is fossilised compressed mud, and the stains visible in the photograph are probably from the next stratum of rock.

In Ancient Egypt woman and men both wore cosmetics and cosmetic equipment, such as this palette, have often been found in tombs indicating that they were vital objects to the owners.

Cosmetics are as old as vanity and Ancient Egypt has the earliest evidence of their use. The way in which cosmetics are used has changed very little in the thousands of years since their invention, they are still used to highlight features or cover blemishes. The global cosmetics industry today is worth an estimated £30 billion but its origins are in ancient mudstone palettes like this.

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3400-3300 BC


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