Journal Highlight: First evidence of the use of freshwater pearls as a cosmetic in ancient China: Analysis of white makeup powder from a Northern Song dynasty Lv tomb (Lantian, Shaanxi Province, China)

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  • Published: Sep 4, 2017
  • Author: spectroscopyNOW
  • Channels: Atomic
thumbnail image: Journal Highlight: First evidence of the use of freshwater pearls as a cosmetic in ancient China: Analysis of white makeup powder from a Northern Song dynasty Lv tomb (Lantian, Shaanxi Province, China)

A white powder identified as women's makeup found in a porcelain dish in a Chinese tomb has been identified as a product of freshwater pearls following analysis by ICP-AES, FTIR spectroscopy, SEM, X-ray diffraction and DSC-TG.

First evidence of the use of freshwater pearls as a cosmetic in ancient China: Analysis of white makeup powder from a Northern Song dynasty Lv tomb (Lantian, Shaanxi Province, China)

Archaeometry, 2017, 59, 762-774
Z. R. Yu, X. D. Wang, B. M. Su and Y. Zhang

Abstract: The Lv family tombs in Lantian, Shaanxi Province are one of the most important archaeological sites of China in recent years, providing numerous objects and a wealth of information for the study of the history of the Northern Song dynasty. There were a large number of exquisite cultural relics unearthed from the tombs, including one porcelain box containing white powder, which was identified as women's makeup. The phase composition, microstructure, thermal properties and characteristics of the trace elements in the unearthed white cosmetic powder were comprehensively analysed by X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), differential scanning calorimetry – thermogravimetry (DSC–TG), Fourier transform infrared (FT–IR) microscopy and inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP–AES). The white makeup powder was determined to be a product made from high-quality freshwater pearls. These results, for the first time, showed evidence that freshwater pearl powder was used as a cosmetic in ancient China using archaeological objects, providing scientific evidence and new clues to enrich and expand research into the ancient Chinese cosmetic materials.

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