Standards of beauty may have changed significantly in 5000 years


A 5000 year old grave in Iran contained the remains of a 25-30 year old, upper class woman. There’s something distinctive about that skull, though.

She’s got a prosthetic eye! Only it’s not your standard glass eye, it’s a ball made of tar and fat, with delicate capillaries made of gold wire, and a diamond shape incised into the ball where the iris would be, and apparently it was held in its socket by a strap around the head, so it must have bulged out quite a bit. Also, it’s black.

This wasn’t an eye made to hide a disfiguring wound, it was made to accentuate it. She must have been terrifying.

(There’s a “reconstruction” at the link, but it doesn’t look like much effort was put into it, like they just drew a black ball on the face of a contemporary Iranian woman.)

Comments

  1. madtom1999 says

    I wonder whether the eye was actually black 5000 years ago.
    Having said that before plastic surgery there were many more differently figured people who would have been accepted in the community without the bat of a false eyelid. Its only the advent of advertising and cinema/tv that has caused people to find slight out of band people to be considered ugly and shunned. I recently lived in a small town (pop 10,000 or so) where there were a family with a genetic feature that caused the left eye to be up to 2″ lower in the face than the right. The only people who mentioned it were newcomers and any attempt to mock was soon put straight.

  2. madtom1999 says

    @woozy – it seems there was an abscess in the back of the eye which suggests considerable use!

  3. woozy says

    numerous interesting finds including an ancient measuring ruler, backgammon game pieces and an animation device.

    Is it accurate to refer to a game with 60 pieces and unknown rules as “backgammon” and … what the heck is “an animation device”???

  4. CJO says

    before plastic surgery there were many more differently figured people who would have been accepted in the community without the bat of a false eyelid. Its only the advent of advertising and cinema/tv that has caused people to find slight out of band people to be considered ugly and shunned.

    Given the lack of access to effective healthcare, this is probably right as far as “accepted in the community” goes –for certain classes of common deviations from normal anatomy due to injury and (certain) diseases. But on the other side of the coin, there are numerous examples of ancient physiognomies explicitly equating congenital deformities with devalued (even diabolical) character traits, and premodern superstitions such as the evil eye and attitudes toward e.g. leprosy would also indicate that the differently figured have long been feared and shunned.

  5. ridana says

    More info about the “animation device” here. Apparently it’s basically sequential drawing on a cup, animated by setting the cup on a spinning platter. In this case, a goat leaping toward a tree to eat the leaves.

  6. CJO says

    I thought “animation device” was curious too. Chris’s joke aside, I considered that it was possible it was some ritual object for “animating” the dead. (The ancient Egyptian mummification rite, after all, was such a device.) But excavations at the same site as the find under discussion have apparently been ongoing since the ’70s, and previous finds have included “an earthenware bowl … which bears images of what experts believe is the world’s oldest ‘animated’ picture drawn around it”. So I guess that sort of thing is what they mean.
    https://iranknow.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/oldest-animation-and-dice-of-the-world-found-in-burnt-city-burnt-city-part-3-last/

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