Today was the last lecture in a series of four lectures, connected to the Glass in antiquity exhibition; on the last day of that exhibition.
This one was not really about the glass vessels themselves, but about their contents; like perfume, balm, or wine.
The lecture was by Ruurd Halbertsma of the Greco-Roman department of the museum.
Introducing Dr Halbertsma, the director of the museum said that, while preparing the vessels for the exhibition, in some of them substances were found which might be ancient and interesting.
However, it turned one of those had been used for an olive oil ad ten years ago.
In the other ones, the substance proved to be sand.
Perfume, Dr Halbertsma said, played a big role in economies and societies of antiquity.
It was linked, eg, to the importance of bodily care in Roman culture.
The Romans had thermae for bathing built all over their empire, and vessels of perfume went along to them.
Cosmetics played a big role in antiquity.
Some people had their faces bleached with white-lead, to show off that they did not have to work in the blazing sun.
Malachite was used for black lines around the eyes.
Fragmented pumice was used for brushing teeth.
Perfume had various functions.
First, in religions.
The images of deities were often anointed.
During ceremonies, the faithful were often anointed.
The dead were often embalmed, like in ancient Egyptian mummies.
Second, in medicine.
Oil, perfume, were often used as medicine.
Third, for cosmetics.
When this cosmetic use is stressed especially, it may pass into category four: seduction.
Especially this fourth category brought perfume much opposition from moralist authors, religions, and governments.
There was no distilled alcohol in antiquity.
Most perfume was based on olive oil.
As much perfume would look brownish, so not very attractive, various substances were added to colour it.
Including Rubia tinctorum for a red colour.
This blog will go on with the other parts of Dr Halbertsma’s lecture on perfume; so, stay tuned.