[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 1 July 2006, 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK
Ancient cosmetics brought to life
Roman cosmetics
Romans used olive oil, saffron and lead as cosmetics
Make-up used by the "footballers' wives" of Roman times is on display at an antiquity festival in south Wales.

At the Roman "military spectacular" in Caerleon cosmetics expert Sally Pointer will show how society beauties of the day made themselves glamorous.

Her range make-up includes scrubs to polish the skin, foundation pastes, blushers, eyeliner and perfumes.

But not all will be exact replicas, because Romans often used poisonous ingredients such as lead.

Ms Pointer - a manager at the National Museum in Cardiff - has recreated a number of centuries-old products.

She said ancient Rome could be behind many current fashion trends and compared its high society women to the footballers' wives of today.

There's clear evidence there were very fashionable perfume makers and cosmetics manufactures - and you could get knock-off versions as well
Sally Pointer

"I don't think it was very different at all. There was a huge following of gladiators, much as they do footballers today," she said.

"They used to sell gladiator sweat as a beauty treatment, they would sell it in souvenir pots.

"It's no different than someone wanting to take home a sweaty shirt - exactly the same idea."

And Ms Pointer, who trained as an archaeologist and has been involved in re-enactment for 13 years, also said it was possible Romans shared our obsession with designer products.

"There's clear evidence there were very fashionable perfume-makers and cosmetics manufacturers, and you could get knock-off versions of the things they were selling as well," she told the BBC News website.

Ms Pointer has used Roman recipes to recreate her products.

Her "experimental reconstructions" could give a real sense of what life might have been like, she said.

Sally Pointer
Sally Pointer has been involved in re-enactment for 13 years

The museum manager has reconstructed a face cream excavated in London a couple of years ago which was made from fat starch.

But she said it was not always possible to use authentic Roman ingredients.

"They're safe enough to experiment with, but not safe for everyday use. Some are downright poisonous."

"Lead is the classic: they used a lot of lead certainly in some Roman make-up. In itself it's a good face powder - it's the most lovely fine clingy white powder imaginable.

"It's a shame it is toxic and accumulates in your system and does horrible things to you."

Other ingredients the Romans used for beautifying themselves were olive oil, beeswax, saffron and rosewater.

The weekend will also feature Roman re-enactors, the Ermine Street Guards, and a 10-strong troupe of scantily-clad gladiators called Ars Dimicandi, who will show off their fighting skills in the town's amphitheatre.

The military spectacular takes place on Saturday and Sunday, 1 and 2 July, at the Roman amphitheatre in Caerleon, 1100 - 1700 BST.



Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific