Tue. Dec 5th, 2023

Kohl, or kajal, offers a deep and smoky eye line that carries both aesthetic and cultural significance in ancient Egypt and other desert regions. It is applied by both men and women to make their eyes more prominent and to protect them from dust and sun.

The main ingredient in kohl is a metallic mineral called galena (lead sulfide), but artisans mixed it with other ingredients to achieve the desired consistency and medicinal properties. For example, according to Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him), kohl reduces the skin flap over the eyelid and helps relieves headaches. It also strengthens the eyes and protects them from dust particles, eases congestion in tear ducts, removes the dandruff of the eyes, cleanses the eyes from impurities and helps the heart and ears.

Although there is a considerable amount of research on the inorganic constituents of kohl recipes from ancient Egypt, organic materials have received less attention. Our multi-analytical study of eleven containers from the Petrie Museum collection suggests that kohls were essentially heterogeneous mixtures and their contents may have varied considerably over time.

The analysis of kohl samples UC43078, UC43148 and UC31613 shows the rare presence of manganese-based materials in kohls, specifically pyrolusite and manganite. This is the first time these materials have been found in kohls analysed using modern techniques. In addition, kohls UC43078 and UC43148 were also found to contain a significant quantity of sulfide minerals such as pyrite and stibnite, in contrast with the majority of kohls that contain only lead-based substances. pure Kohl

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