Testing an Egyptian Cosmetic Pot

Testing an Egyptian Cosmetic Pot

This cosmetic pot is made of calcite and was found at Abydos. It still contains traces of its contents.
 
Dr Stephen Buckley of York University carried out tests using a sample taken from inside the pot. The testing and analysis of the results showed it contained eye paint made from the black lead ore galena, crushed and mixed with date palm oil. Below you can see the stages involved in the testing.

 

York University Testing Lab The cosmetic pot.
York University Testing Lab
Dr. Buckley using a metal spatula to loosen a minute sample from the cosmetic pot.
York University Testing Lab
Collecting the loosened sample from the cosmetic pot on to a piece of solvent-washed aluminium foil.
York University Testing Lab
Dr. Buckley checking a test tube containing the minute sample from the cosmetic pot.
York University Testing Lab
Adding solvent to the cosmetic pot sample inside the test tube, in order to extract any organic material (such as resin, oil, spices) for analysis by GC/MS (gas-chromatography/mass-spectrometry).
York University Testing Lab
The cosmetic pot sample and other ancient Egyptian samples undergoing solvent extraction are placed into an ultrasonic bath to help dissolve and extract any organic material (such as resin, oil, spices) for GC/MS analysis.
 
York University Testing Lab
Following the ultrasonic bath, the samples are placed in a centrifuge in order to force any non-dissolved solids down to the bottom of the test tubes.
 
York University Testing Lab
The samples are removed from the centrifuge.
York University Testing Lab
Removing the soluble extract from the test tube to a small glass vial for further analysis.
York University Testing Lab
After adding a derivatising agent to make the components more volatile, the samples are heated to prepare them for final analysis by GC/MS.
York University Testing Lab
The gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GC/MS) separates each component of a sample and produces a molecular 'fingerprint' to allow their identification.
 
York University Testing Lab
Injecting one of the samples into the GC/MS.
York University Testing Lab
Dr. Buckley and Harrogate Curator Ros Watson view some of the chromatograms from the GC/MS analysis of the samples.
 
York University Testing Lab
A GC/MS chromatogram of one of the ancient Egyptian samples, superimposed over the mass spectrometer, which produced the data.


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