It is reasonable to suggest that these cosmetic tubes would have contained kohl, which was considered to have disinfecting and fly-deterrent properties, and is found frequently prescribed for assorted eye complaints in medical papyri. The Ancient Egyptians (both men and women) also wore kohl on their eyelids as protection against the glare of the sun. Our collection boasts a variety of kohl pots, but containers comprising several tubes became popular during the New Kingdom, with the advantage that several different types of eye-paint could be stored. Perhaps these were eye-paints of different colours, or eye-paints intended for different occasions. A thin applicator would have been used to extract the kohl, as is suggested by the scrapes and scratches visible on the interior compartment of the tubes.
Set of Wooden Egyptian Cosmetic Tubes
A pair of cylindrical cosmetic tubes made from well-preserved wood, connected by two pieces of carved ivory. A rectangular indentation (1cm in length) in each of the ivory connections possibly suggests that an applicator stick was formerly stored between the two tubes. The top of each tube features an ivory peg lid with a small hole bored longitudinally.
Period: New Kingdom Period
Provenance: ex. Important London collection, major Mayfair gallery, pre 1999.
Condition: Complete and intact, though the ivory connections between the tubes at the top have been repaired.