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Oldest cosmetics found on Balkan Peninsula

Christian Fernsby |
Miniature ceramic bottles with perforated handles entered the pottery repertoire of different Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic communities across the south-eastern Prealps, south-western Transdanubia and the Balkans in the 5th millennium BC.

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It is hypothesised that these small bottles were personal items that could be hung around the neck or waist, possibly to contain cosmetics or for cultic purposes.

"The analysis showed that cerussite (lead carbonate) was the main component of the white material found in the bottle from Zgornje Radvanje, Slovenia.

"In the visible residues found in the bottles from Turnišče and Popava 1, the lead minerals plumbogummite and pyromorphite were identified as crystalline components. The identification of lead-containing minerals in this study coincides with the earliest use of lead in south-eastern Europe (ca. 4400–4300 BCE), as described in Hansen et al. (2019).

"Lipid analysis identified beeswax as the content of three of the vessels, which, together with the detection of lead minerals found in the same vessels, suggests its use as an organic binder, perhaps to form pigments as previously hypothesised, for cosmetic and/or medicinal purposes.

"Significantly, this study pushes back the date for the use of lead-based cosmetic/medicinal products in North Africa and the Near East by more than a millennium, and in Europe by more than two millennia."

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