Some Personal Objects

Hand-mirrors date from prehistoric times, when it is likely that discs of polished slate were used. The earliest known metal mirrors belong to the Egyptian 1st dynasty (c. 3100 B.C.), and during the Old Kingdom, which lasted about 700 years, the characteristic shape still exists today was first introduced. The Egyptian mirrors were originally made of copper, but this was later superseded by bronze. The faces were highly polished and ornamental ivory, glazed or painted handles were provided.

Egyptian ladies used cosmetics as much as their modern counterparts. The old blues and greens associated with eye 'make-up' were derived from copper pigments, blue being made out of azurite and a frit of silver, copper or calcium, and green from the other copper carbonate, malachite. Some of the sticks for applying eye-paint were made of bronze and are still usable after thousands of years.

Many bronze and copper razors have also survived, some of them for nearly five thousand years. The earliest razors were simply scraping tools made of copper with a hardened and sharpened edge. Here again bronze was subsequently introduced. By 2000 B.C. the razor had attained the shape of a small axe with a very fine blade, and a few centuries later the Nile dwellers had even invented a rotating type of razor, which was held between the finger and thumb and used in rotary motion. Hair-tweezers were employed even in prehistoric times, and some of these too are still in existence.

One remarkable object now in the British Museum is a small but wonderfully designed toilet implement of the XV111th Dynasty (1450 B.C.); it comprises a bronze casting of a man riding a horse, in the very attitude of a modern show-jumper taking a fence!

The ancient Egyptians never developed a system of coinage. Most of their exchanges appear to have been by barter, but they also used pieces of gold, silver and copper as media of exchange-sometimes with a special design.

The wealth of articles found at Amarna include bronze branding-irons of about 1370 B.C. for marking cattle. Even older are some bronze implements for cutting out linen; these had handles or other ornamentation in the form of a goat.