The New York Herald Times informs us that archaeologists poking amid the ruins of dead civilization are likely to come up with almost anything. Now, according to a report from Jerusalem, they have uncovered the remains of a cosmetics factory near the Israeli settlement of En-Gedi, on the shores of the Dead Sea. Evidently it was quite a thriving establishment in its day, for a great quantity of jars, seals, pottery and supplies was found. These were used in the manufacture of balsam, one of the ancient world's most popular perfumes.
Since previous archaeological finds have turned up ivory combs, alabaster ointment boxes, mirrors of polished metal and the like, it is no surprise to learn that the art of beautification was widely practiced in Palestine, Egypt and other ancient lands. What is interesting about the En-Gedi establishment is its size, for it consists of not one but several buildings, all apparently devoted to the manufacture and storage of perfumes and ointments.
Queen Jezebel of Samaria must have been a good customer of such factories, for II Kings is quite specific on the way she "painted her eyes, and adorned her head." Let us hope that not all the clients came to so spectacular an end. In any case, the discovery at En-Gedi confirms that women were women more than 2,000 years ago. But who ever doubted it?
Writing of perfume—Arthur Symons says:
"As a perfume doth remain.
In the folds where it hath lain,
So the thought of you, remaining
Deeply folded in my brain
Will not leave me. All things leave me.
And Nathaniel Hawthorne spoke of "that rich perfume of her breath."
And Bret Harte wrote:
"She walks unbidden from room to room,
And the air is filled that she passes through
With a subtle, sad perfume."
And Lady Macbeth wailed, "All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little Land."
And Shakespeare wrote of "the rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril."