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Archaeology

Formulation of a Roman cosmetic

This unguent shares some surprising features with modern moisturizing creams.

Abstract

The discovery of a small tin canister in London during archaeological excavations of a Roman temple precinct, dated to the middle of the second century AD1, is a landmark in the study of this class of artefact. Such discoveries from the Roman world are rare2 and this is the only one to be found so far with its lid and contents — a whitish medicinal or cosmetic cream — providing a unique opportunity for us to study the ancient formulation.

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Figure 1: Appearance of the cream.
Figure 2: Analysis of the Roman canister's contents.

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Correspondence to R. P. Evershed.

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Evershed, R., Berstan, R., Grew, F. et al. Formulation of a Roman cosmetic. Nature 432, 35–36 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/432035a

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