Lifestyle Stories - May 2007
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May 2007
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Beauty has taken on many forms through the ages, but it has always been one of our greatest fixations. This week, take a journey through time and see what beauty meant to the ancient Egyptians, Romans, Aztecs, even Picasso. You may be in for a few suprises.

1,300 BC - Beauty Has Arrived

Nefertiti More than 3,000 years ago, Nefertiti was an Egyptian queen of rare beauty. Her name roughly translates to "the beautiful woman has arrived.” Apparently, she was gorgeous and handy with a club. A depiction on a temple wall in Amarna shows her defeating enemies with lethal blows. The fact that this depiction was of anyone but the Pharaoh is extremely rare, let alone the fact that it was of a woman. In her hometown of Karnak, the people gave her many nicknames, including Great of Favour, Possessed of Charm, and Soothing the King's Heart in His House.

Nefertiti has remained a cultural icon long after her death. She is considered Egypt's second most famous queen after Cleopatra, and scholars give her credit for changing modern beauty standards. If you're a Miles Davis fan, you may recognize her name as the title track of his 1967 acoustic album. To see her swan-like neck, gorgeous cheekbones, and perfect pout up close, you'll have to make the trek to Berlin's Altes Museum, where her bust is on display.

roman makeup 0 AD - The World's First Skin Care Line?

A 2,000 year old jar of face cream was found in 2003 when archaeologists were digging up a Roman temple near the River Thames. As you may have guessed, it smelled awful. Researchers said it was most likely made from a refined animal fat (probably donkey’s milk), and wasn’t that much different than the skin lightening creams we use today. Scientists at Bristol University reproduced this ancient concoction and rubbed it on their own skin. The starch from the cream left a powdery, white appearance — a look that was all the rage with Roman women. Check out the image to your left. This tin jar was found virtually intact, complete with fingerprints that were left from the last time the cream was used. Thankfully it didn't contain lead. Romans often used this toxic substance in their rouge and face creams, causing many women to go mad from lead poisoning.

eleanor The 13th Century - Braiding It Up

Knights were especially romantic during the Middle Ages. When they returned home from the Crusades with a gift for their special lady, it was likely an antiseptic to ward off the plague. Or perhaps a mixture of swallow droppings and lizard tallow to keep her braids tight and tidy. Soap was one of the most prized gifts (which incidentally, was invented by the Egyptians), but it was meant to be used on clothes and cookware, not the body. They certainly wouldn’t bring their girlfriends rouge. That would mean they enjoyed the town, if you know what we mean.

aztec The 15th Century - You Think You're Leaving the House Looking Like That?

Believe it or not, the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan were pretty modest when it came to beauty. Young women got a stern warning from their fathers if they wore too many feathers or too much face paint. In a chronicle between a father and daughter, the father records, "Never make up your face nor paint it; never put red on your mouth to look beautiful...If you want your husband to love you, dress well, wash yourself and wash your clothes.” The last bit is probably still sound advice.

Aztec boys didn't escape scrutiny either. The ideal Aztec male was slender, but not too skinny...tall but not too tall...healthy but not fat. And they could forget about having facial hair. Their mothers would actually apply hot compresses to their faces when they were babies to stunt hair growth. If they grew facial hair when they got older, the tweezers came out.

When it comes to beauty, our notable poets, journalists, artists, and authors have had a lot to say. Check out a few of their quotes below:

"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” — Confucius

"What is beauty anyway? There's no such thing." — Pablo Picasso

"The definition of a beautiful woman is one who loves me.” — Sloan Wilson

"As we grow old, the beauty steals inward." — Ralph Waldo Emerson

"A bachelor never quite gets over the idea that he is a thing of beauty and a boy forever."
— Helen Rowland

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever." — John Keats

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The SignatureForum Staff
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