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Let's Face It

Last week, I reported that in “The Mistress”, Miriam and Phoebe put on makeup to disguise themselves as they investigated the probability of a murder. Miriam thought she even knew who Kosmos intended to kill:

“I’m sure she’s the intended victim. Look, she’s wearing a ring no scribe could afford, and it matches the one Kosmos wears. Second, she hasn’t worked for him long but is already charged with keeping an eye on the others. And third, other than his wife, what other woman would a man want to kill? His mistress, of course. And he’s going to kill her today.”

Researchers at the University of Bristol (UK) analyzed a sample of a two-thousand-year-old face cream to find that it contained animal fat, starch, and a mineral containing tin. Based on their analysis, they created their own batch, saying that “although it felt greasy initially, owning to the fat melting as a result of body heat, this was quickly overtaken by the smooth, powdery texture created by the starch.”

Cosmetics were part of the daily life of rich Roman women. When applied, the starch whitened their skin. The Romans prized a pale complexion because it showed that a woman was rich enough to stay inside and have slaves do her outdoor work. Similar face creams, using lead and mercury instead of tin, were later found to be poisonous.

Were Miriam and Phoebe able to forestall the murder? Check out “The Mistress”, one of nine short stories in The Deadliest Deceptions. Click here.

Thanks to Raymond O’Brien for bringing this archeological discovery to my attention.


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