Ancient Egyptian Alabaster Kohl Pot


A delicate ancient Egyptian vessel made from Egyptian alabaster. The pot was most likely used for kohl, to be worn by ancient Egyptian women. It features a heart-shaped body, with gently sloping shoulders that lead to a smooth rim. There is a small, carinated foot that the vessel stands on. The inside of the pot has been drilled, with the outside smoothed to make an aesthetically pleasing vessel. This piece comes with a small wooden stand, acquired from the previous provenance. Measurements supplied refer only to the pot.

Date: 1938-1630 BC
Period: Middle Kingdom Period
Provenance: Ex. S. Andrew's collection, acquired by descent, bought in Egypt circa 1960's - certificate from Khawan & Co., Cairo
Condition: Good condition. Some natural erosion over time.


SKU: AH-1116 Category: Tag:

Alabaster has been used for centuries by several cultures, including the Egyptians, who used this elegant stone to carve a number of vessels, in varying sizes and craftsmanship. It was a material used especially for kohl containers, much like this example. Originally it may have also held a bronze or glass rod for kohl application. Cosmetics were a large industry in ancient Egypt, produced professionally and sold in the market place.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead states in spell 125 that one should not speak unless “clean, dressed in fresh clothes, shod in white sandals, painted with eye-paint, anointed with the finest oil of myrrh”. The Egyptians had recipes for many modern-day toiletries, including toothpaste, deodorant, sun cream, cosmetics, and perfume.

Kohl comes from a lead sulphide called “galena”, 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) wore kohl on their eyelids as protection against the glare of the sun. In addition to this practical use, outlining the eyes could also have been a way of drawing a protective amulet, such as the Wadjet Eye, right onto the skin. To make kohl, the galena was first ground up on a palette, with water or animal fat then added to create a paste. This paste would have adhered to the skin, with soot also added to produce a darker coloured kohl.

Weight 97.8 g
Dimensions L 4 x W 4 x H 2.75 cm



Reference: For Similar: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, item 10.130.1268

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