What do Egyptians think of blacks

Egyptians: eyeshadow as protection against disease

So far, the thick black eye makeup of the ancient Egyptians was considered harmful because it contained lead. But now French researchers have discovered something surprising: the lead compounds in make-up mobilize an important signal substance of the immune system in skin cells in culture. This makes the cells more resistant to attacks by pathogens, as the scientists report in the journal "Analytical Chemistry".

Queen Nefertiti and many of her contemporaries wore it too: a thick black paste framed the eyes and highlighted them effectively. The ancient Egyptians believed that this makeup not only emphasized beauty, but also had a magical effect. The gods Horus and Ra protected those who wore it against diseases. In modern times, however, the Egyptians' makeup had a rather bad reputation, because the paste contained lead, an element usually better known as poison.

Targeted lead compounds?

Now, however, lead make-up has been at least partially rehabilitated. Because Christian Amatore, Philippe Walter and their colleagues from the University of Paris discovered a clearly positive effect of lead compounds on the immune system.

For their study, the researchers analyzed 52 samples from make-up containers from ancient Egypt, which were kept in the Louvre Museum in Paris. They found four different lead-containing compounds in them, two of which do not occur naturally, but must have been synthesized by Egyptian “chemists”. But why?

Boost for important immune signaling substances

In the next step, they exposed laboratory cultures of skin cells to these substances and discovered something surprising: Instead of causing severe damage, the lead compounds stimulated the production of nitrogen oxides in the cells. These are considered to be important signal substances that stimulate the immune system and help defend against diseases. Stimulated by the lead substances, the cells even produced 240 percent more nitric oxide than normal.

Protective effect against eye infections

According to the scientists, this proves that lead make-up in ancient Egypt not only had a "magical" effect, but also actually had a protective effect against infections. In the swampy, often flooded areas along the Nile, bacterial eye infections were probably common, according to the researchers. Therefore, the Egyptians could have used the makeup specifically to protect and treat such diseases.

(American Chemical Society, January 13, 2010 - NPO)

January 13, 2010