finds in Iran show that women and men applied makeup and arrayed
themselves with ornaments approximately 10,000 years ago, a trend which
began from religious convictions rather than mere beautification
Archaeologists have discovered various instruments of make-up and
ornamental items in the Burnt City, which date back to the third
The caves of the Bakhtiari region, where the first hunter-gatherers
settled at the end of the ice age, have yielded not only stone tools,
daggers and grindstones but also several stones covered with red ocher.
As no cave paintings have been found in this area, researchers believe the
people of this era painted their faces and bodies with ocher.
Parthian goat-shaped vessel
Other caves in Kermanshah have also yielded several samples of animal
bones with traces of paint. Again, as the cave walls are undecorated, it
can be inferred that the residents used these bones as ornaments.
The tombs found in Kerman have all yielded white powder made of lead or
silver suggesting the people of this region were the first to use white
powder for beautification purposes.
Archaeologists also believe that both women and men used a red powder
found inside small saucer-like vessels unearthed in some tombs to redden
Jewelry found in the Burnt City, Iran
The masks and statues unearthed at Haft Tappeh in Khuzestan, show the
people of the time blackened and extended their eyebrows, reddened their
lips and cheeks and lined their eyes up to the eyebrows.
Archaeological finds dating back to the first millennium BCE, show the
diversity and abundance of cosmetics and ornaments in this period,
suggesting that this era was the peak of the art of decoration and makeup
Ten thousand year old discoveries from a number of caves, especially
Mazandaran's Huto and Kamarband caves and Kermanshah's Bisotoun Cave,
reveal that women and men adorned themselves with pelts, shells, colorful
stones and the teeth and bones of hunted animals.
A Parthian Gold Bead
Metal, bone, shell, stone and glass rings, bracelets, armlets, anklets,
hair and dress pins, circlets, chokers, ornamental buttons, various ear
and fingernail cleaning tools are among the frequent finds from this era.
Agate, pearls and other semi-precious stones have been discovered in the
Burnt City, and the quantity of unearthed necklaces, bracelets and rings
show that the inhabitants were fully aware of the value of ornaments and
Persian carnelian bead bracelet (500-300 BCE)
Archaeological excavations in central Iran at Tappeh Si Arg in Kashan and
Tappeh Hessar in Damghan have unveiled the same extent of makeup materials
and ornamental ware.
Decorative beads made from pearl, turquoise, copper, silver, gold and
unbaked or baked lime from 4,600 BCE to 1,800 BCE are the most frequent
finds at these sites.
Rings, necklaces, crowns, earrings, foot ornaments, bracelets and even
metal beads adorned with what is thought to be family insignia all testify
to the mastery of their artisans.
Seal showing a Persian defeating a Grecian warrior
Tappeh Hessar graves, even those belonging to children, all contain an
array of such objects.
Cave dwellers used water as the first mirror. Gradually as man learned to
melt and polish metals, he crafted mirrors.
The oldest man-made mirrors discovered, which date back 4500 years, have
been found mostly in Ilam, Luristan and Azarbaijan and are ornamented with
mythological figures carved into their handles and backs.
A pair of Gold Earrings ( 500-300 BCE)
In the excavation of the Sassanid tombs of Azarbaijan, two sheets of glass
with tar and silver-coated backs were discovered, which archaeologists
believe were used like modern mirrors.
These sheets of glass/ancient mirrors like many other Iranian treasures
from the past have been housed in the British Museum.
An Achaemenid seal housed in the Louvre depicts a fully made-up
aristocratic woman looking at her reflection in a mirror while a maid
presents her with a hairpiece.
The first combs found in Burnt City excavations are as old as 4,700 years
and are mostly wooden with embossed decorations.
Studies suggest the women of Sistan used combs for both decoration and
One ancient statue shows a queen with her hair collected behind her head
in a crescent.
Archaeologists believe women used the various springs found in the tombs
in Ilam's Poshtkoh cemetery to wrap their hair. Hair wrappers with a
bejeweled middle or outside rod have also been discovered in Ilam's Chenar
Persepolis images suggest kings and soldiers used extensions in their
beards and hair.
Parthians wore pendants, tiny pins, rings, circlets, perfume, precious
stones and clay or glass beads to banish ill omens.
Achaemenid white agate bead necklace ( 550-330 BCE)
Sassanid women were so attached to makeup and ornaments that they were
often buried with them. In this era, the use of semi-precious ornamental
objects became popular, an example of which is the belt buckle adorned
with pink agate which is housed at the Wisebaden Museum.
Achaemenid jewelry was decorated with mythological, plant and animal
shapes. For example, bracelets were thin and the two ends were adorned by
lion, ram, goose, deer or snake heads.
Sassanid carnelian stamp seal
The intricacy of some of the jewelry unearthed still amazes archaeologists
as to how people from ancient times designed and produced ornaments of