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8 October 2004
Cosmetics in ancient Iran

Based on recent excavations in northwestern Iran, archaeological now believe that eye makeup has been used Iran since about 4500 BCE. Other archaeological discoveries at Haft-Tappeh in Khuzestan Province indicate that women used to wear lipstick, rouge, and eye makeup in 2000 BCE in Iran.
     Achaemenid era religious texts say that the wives of the king spent a lot of time applying makeup and perfume before meeting the king. The ancient Greeks admired the Achaemenid era Persians for their custom of wearing makeup and attributed the origin of the use of cosmetics to the East.
     Iranians used several different types and styles of makeup in the Achaemenid, the Parthian, and the Sassanid eras. Seven items were used in women's cosmetics in ancient Iran: sormeh (black powder used as eyeliner), henna to dye the hair and hands, qazeh (rouge powder for the cheeks), sefidab (powder to whiten the face), vasmeh (powder to darken and thicken the eyebrows), zarak (yellowish powder used to lighten the hair color), and khal (a beauty spot). The number seven symbolized perfection in ancient Zoroastrian traditions and the number twelve symbolized virtue.
     Cosmetics were common in ancient Iran but only married women were allowed to wear makeup. The style of makeup was also different than the style in the Islamic era. Texts by Avicenna and Al-Biruni were the first Iranian sources describing women's use of cosmetics. In ancient times, Iranian men also wore cosmetics. The famous Parthian commander Sorena always wore makeup. Some sources have also mentioned that Darius the Great used black eyeliner.

Source: Iranian.ws (5 October 2004)

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