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Journal Article

The rise of the cosmetic industry in ancient China: insights from a 2,700‐year‐old face cream

MPS-Authors
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Zech,  Jana
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Roberts,  Patrick
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Yang,  Yimin
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Han, B., Chong, J., Sun, Z., Jiang, X., Xiao, Q., Zech, J., et al. (2021). The rise of the cosmetic industry in ancient China: insights from a 2,700‐year‐old face cream. Archaeometry, 12659. doi:10.1111/arcm.12659.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-F2BF-1
Abstract
Cosmetic has a long history in China while its origin has remained unclear. It potentially originated in the Spring and Autumn period (770‐476 BC) but little is known about its early manufacture and use. The Liujiawa Site, located at the southern edge of the Loess Plateau in northern China, was the late capital of the Rui State in the early to middle Spring and Autumn Period. During the excavation, a sealed small and exquisite container with suspected cosmetic use was unearthed from tomb M49 belonging to a male associated with the aristocratic class. Here, we report the multidisciplinary application of ATR‐FTIR, XRD, SEM, stable isotope analysis, GC/MS, and GC‐C‐IRMS analysis of the residue inside the container, demonstrating that the residue, made of ruminant adipose fat mixed with monohydrocalcite coming from cave moonmilk, was likely used as cosmetic face cream by the nobleman of ancient Rui State. This work provides an early example of cosmetic production in China and, together with the prevalence of similar cosmetic containers during this period, suggests the rise of an incipient cosmetics industry. Furthermore, the exploitation of moonmilk, a special stalactite in some limestone caves, reflects the link between early Taoist School and cosmetic production encouraged by the aristocratic class.