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2,000-year-old cream shows aristocrat’s taste


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Tannhäuser
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« on: July 12, 2009, 12:32:04 am »

2,000-year-old cream shows aristocrat’s taste
Tuscan discovery was found almost intact in a cosmetics case[/b]



Image: Ancient ointment   
This ancient ointment was found to have a high abundance of fatty acids. It also contained natural resins and moringa oil, which was one of the ingredients in a recipe for a perfume for ancient royalty. The researchers also believe that the lotion was imported.
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Archaeological Superintendency of Tuscany, Florence
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Tannhäuser
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« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2009, 12:32:30 am »

By Rossella Lorenzi
updated 6:15 p.m. CT, Fri., July 10, 2009

Italian archaeologists have discovered lotion that is over 2,000 years old, left almost intact in the cosmetic case of an aristocratic Etruscan woman.

The discovery, which occurred four years ago in a necropolis near the Tuscan town of Chiusi, has just been made public, following chemical analysis which identified the original compounds of the ancient ointment. The team reports their findings in the July issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Dating to the second half of the second century B.C., the intact tomb was found sealed by a large terracotta tile. The site featured a red-purple painted inscription with the name of the deceased: Thana Presnti Plecunia Umranalisa.
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Tannhäuser
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« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2009, 12:32:47 am »

"From the formula of the name, we learn that Thana Plecunia was the daughter of a lady named Umranei, a member of one of the most important aristocratic families of Chiusi," the researchers wrote.

Indeed, the wide rectangular niche tomb certainly represents the noble origins of the deceased.

The ashes of Thana rested in a small travertine urn, decorated with luxuriant foliate elements and the head of a female goddess, most likely the Etruscan Earth goddess Cel Ati.

Nearby, the archaeologists found a cosmetic case, richly decorated with bone, ivory, tin and bronze elements. The feet of the box featured bone carved in the shape of Sirens.
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Tannhäuser
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« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2009, 12:33:02 am »

The case was filled with precious personal objects: a couple of bronze finger rings, a pair of tweezers, two combs and an alabaster unguentarium vessel — a vase-shaped jar — of Egyptian origins.

"The entire content of the cosmetic case was found under a clay layer which deposited throughout time. This made it possible for the ointment to survive almost intact despite (the fact that) the vessel had no cap," Erika Ribechini, a researcher at the department of chemistry and industrial chemistry of Pisa University, told Discovery News.

Solid, homogeneous and pale yellow, the ointment revealed fatty acids in high abundance.

"This is almost unique in archaeology. Even though more than 2,000 years have passed, the oxidation of the organic material has not yet been completed. This is most likely due to the sealing of the alabaster unguentarium by the clayish earth, which prevented contact with oxygen," Ribechini said.

After analyzing the material, the researchers established that the contents of the vessel consisted of a mixture of substances of lipids and resins.
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Tannhäuser
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« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2009, 12:33:12 am »

The case was filled with precious personal objects: a couple of bronze finger rings, a pair of tweezers, two combs and an alabaster unguentarium vessel — a vase-shaped jar — of Egyptian origins.

"The entire content of the cosmetic case was found under a clay layer which deposited throughout time. This made it possible for the ointment to survive almost intact despite (the fact that) the vessel had no cap," Erika Ribechini, a researcher at the department of chemistry and industrial chemistry of Pisa University, told Discovery News.

Solid, homogeneous and pale yellow, the ointment revealed fatty acids in high abundance.

"This is almost unique in archaeology. Even though more than 2,000 years have passed, the oxidation of the organic material has not yet been completed. This is most likely due to the sealing of the alabaster unguentarium by the clayish earth, which prevented contact with oxygen," Ribechini said.

After analyzing the material, the researchers established that the contents of the vessel consisted of a mixture of substances of lipids and resins.
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« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2009, 12:35:22 am »

"The natural resins were the pine resin, exudated from Pinaceae, and the mastic resin, from Anacardiaceae trees. The lipid was a vegetable oil, most likely moringa oil, which was used by the Egyptians and Greeks to produce ointments and perfumes," Ribechini said.

Also called myrobalan oil, moringa oil was mentioned by Roman scholar Pliny the Elder (23 A.D. - 79 A.D.) in his celebrated Natural History as one of the ingredients in the recipe of a "regal perfume" for the king of Parthes.

Since moringa trees were not found in Italy — they are native to Sudan and Egypt — and given the Egyptian origins of the alabaster unguentarium, the researchers concluded that the ointment was imported to Etruria.
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« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2009, 12:35:48 am »

"The imported Egyptian unguentarium and its exotic ointment attest to the high social rank to which Thana Plecunia and her family belonged. ... (The cosmetic case) probably commemorated an important moment in the life of this aristocratic woman, namely, her wedding," the researchers concluded.

According to Ilaria Bonaduce, a researcher at the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry of Pisa University who was not involved in the study, the research is particularly important as it demonstrates the role of chemical analysis in archaeology.

"The reconstruction of the origin and function of the object should also consider its chemical content. In this case, the analysis suggests that the ointment was imported into Etruria with the ointment already prepared in Egypt," Bonaduce told Discovery News.
© 2009 Discovery Channel

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31855795/ns/technology_and_science-science/
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