Tuesday, August 29, 2017

History of Fashion: Wear the Eye Makeup of Ancient Egypt

In our History of Fashion study so far, Syd and I have:

worked with leather, embellished shells, and woven on a loom in Prehistory.

And now it's time to travel to Ancient Egypt!

Our spine for this study is The Complete Book of Fashion History, which is already well-thumbed by everyone in the family. For this unit, Syd and I re-read the pages for Ancient Egypt, and while there are loads of cross-curricular activities that you could do here--you could use the Story of the World chapters and activity book resources for Ancient Egypt, read biographies of Cleopatra and Nefertiti, study mummification, make a pharoah's costume or models of their elaborate jewelry--we've actually spent a LOT of time on Ancient Egypt over the years, so I zoomed in on the one thing that we haven't played around with yet: their eye makeup.

Eye makeup was a big deal for the Ancient Egyptians, and not just for cosmetic reasons. Just like football players do now, putting on dark eyeliner reduced glare on the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians in the bright sunlight, and the fact that the eye makeup contained lead, while it was terrible for their long-term health, did protect them from loads of eye diseases and infections.

Why would Ancient Egyptians get so many eye infections, you ask? It's because of all that freaking sand! It got everywhere, including in their eyes and into all of their food. Ancient Egyptians also had terrible teeth, because they ate so much sand that got into their meals that it wore down the enamel on their teeth.

Syd and I watched this video that shows images of Ancient Egyptian artwork, focusing on their eyes to provide the evidence that yes, indeed, dark eye makeup was a thing (at least on the artwork!)--

--and then we watched this video of a makeup artist recreating the look on her own eyes:

And then Syd tried it for herself!

Eyes open.

Eyes closed!
This was a fun activity for Syd, and inspired a whole week's worth of makeup play. It has never occurred to me for a single moment to ever want to put on even a smidge of makeup, but honestly, looking at Syd sitting across the table from me at 10 in the morning, sulking over finding the percent of difference between two numbers... I think she's wearing a little makeup right now, actually.

Here are some other ways that we've studied Ancient Egypt over the years:

Apparently, we like mapmaking!

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