The worlds oldest known lipstick from the Bronze Age was discovered in Iran, study shows


(PADUA, Italy.) — While makeup trends have evolved over the last 4,000 years, a recent study apparently proves that the age-old saying is true: the beauty of a red lip is timeless.

Researchers have identified what is believed to be the world’s oldest known lipstick, or lip paint – a small, ornate stone vial containing a deep red paste, which was discovered in southeastern Iran.

“We hypothesize a lip paint, rather than a solid lipstick because we have no certain idea about the original consistency or fluidity of the cosmetic substance,” Massimo Vidale, one of the study’s lead researchers and a professor of archaeology at the University of Padua in Italy, told ABC News in a statement.

The Bronze Age artifact is carbon dated to between 1936 B.C. and 1687 B.C. and was originally discovered in 2001, when a flood unearthed ancient graveyards, according to a study published in February in the journal Scientific Reports.

The 2001 flooding of the Halil River Valley, 25 miles south of Jiroft, Iran, exhumed ancient ruins from what is believed to be the Bronze Age Marḫaši civilization, a “powerful” people who are believed to have thrived alongside Mesopotamia, according to the study.

Researchers said the ancient lipstick vial, as well as jewelry, weapons, and finely crafted ceramics were among the artifacts looted from the ruins and sold to antique markets before being recovered by Iranian officials.

“A small chlorite vial, discovered among numerous artifacts looted and recovered in the Jiroft region of Kerman province contains a deep red cosmetic preparation that is likely a lip-coloring paint or paste,” researchers said in the study.

The vial was included in a collection at the Jiroft Archaeological Museum in Iran before it was analyzed by researchers from the Italian University of Padua, Iranian University of Tehran, and the International Association for Mediterranean and Oriental Studies in Rome.

The hand-carved stone vial is approximately two inches tall by three-quarters of an inch wide, which is slightly smaller than modern-day lipsticks, according to the study.

One of the most notable findings in the study is that the mineral components of the lipstick artifact “[bear] a striking resemblance to the recipes of contemporary lipsticks,” researchers said.

The ingredients identified by a scanning electron microscope include hematite, darkened with manganite and braunite, and traces of galena and anglesite, mixed with vegetal waxes and other organic substances, according to Vidale, who further noted, “combined it is exactly what one would expect in a modern lipstick.”

For Vidale, the discovery draws a close connection between women of an ancient civilization to those of today.

“I’ve always felt closely connected to the people and civilizations of ancient Iran,” Vidale said. “And having a grown-up daughter, I’ve always been deeply intrigued when I came across material evidence that could be linked to women and children of that age and those cultures.”

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