Brief Communication | Published:

Archaeology: Formulation of a Roman cosmetic

Nature volume 432, pages 3536 (04 November 2004) | Download Citation



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.

This unguent shares some surprising features with modern moisturizing creams.

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Author information


  1. *School of Chemistry, University of Bristol, Cantock's Close, Bristol BS8 1TS, UK

    • R. P. Evershed
    • , R. Berstan
    • , M. S. Copley
    • , A. J. H. Charmant
    •  & H. R. Mottram
  2. †Museum of London, London Wall, London EC2Y 5HN, UK

    • F. Grew
    •  & E. Barham
  3. ‡Pre-Construct Archaeology, Unit 54, Brockley Cross Business Centre, Endwell Road, London SE4 2PD, UK

    • G. Brown


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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to R. P. Evershed.

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