Ancient beauty in ancient Rome

Fashionable women in ancient &to=http:// 19/95/380/10114_hermitage.html ' target=_blank>Rome applied a beauty cream that wasn't all that different from today's cosmetics, researchers say.

Archeologists in London found a rare pot with a lid containing a whitish &to=http:// ' target=_blank>cream that was in good condition. It was dated to the middle of the second century AD.

Chemist Richard Evershed of the University of Bristol and his colleagues determined the cream contained refined animal fat, starch and tin oxide, reports CBC News.

The six-centimetre-wide canister, currently on display in the Museum of London, was discovered in July 2003 by Pre-Construct &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Archaeology at the site of a Roman temple complex dedicated to the god Mars Camulus. It dates from approximately 150 AD. "It's a bit of a one-off finding an organic material inside a closed container in such a high state of preservation," says Richard Evershed from Bristol University, UK, who led the research team. "It allows you not only to characterize the diverse chemical components, but also to quantify them."

The contents were so well preserved (you can still see finger marks in the cream) that the team was able to recreate the product from fresh ingredients, informs Nature.

"It's got this tin-oxide component which looks like it is a pigment - it's an inert material and when you rub it on your skin it goes white," biogeochemist Professor Richard Evershed told BBC News.

"We can't find any indications in the literature for medicinal properties - especially for an inorganic tin like this."

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