Kohl Pot

By
Debbie Kim
Debbie is a Public Health Studies major in the Class of 2021.
,
Ella Cammarato
Ella is an Archaeology major in the Class of 2019.
,
Margaret Swaney
Meg Swaney is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University studying Egyptian Art and Archaeology. She also holds a master's degree in Museum Studies from New York University ('13), where her research focused on the ethics of displaying Egyptian mummies, as well as a bachelor's degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago ('11).
and
Sanchita Balachandran
Sanchita Balachandran is the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern Studies. She teaches courses related to the identification and analysis of ancient manufacturing techniques of objects, as well as the history, ethics and practice of museum conservation.
ECM 431; ca. 1550-1295 BCE; Faience; a: L3.3cm x W 3.3cm x H 3.5cm b: L 3.4cm x H 3.3cm

Kohl pot, ECM 431, Faience, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1550-1295 BCE, a: L 3.3 cm x W 3.3 cm x H 3.5 cm b: L 3.4cm x H 3.3cm

 

Description

This greenish-blue faience kohl pot has a form common to many Egyptian vessels used to hold cosmetics. It has a squat body that flares slightly at the foot and swells at the shoulders tapering in to a narrow neck with a flat, everted rim above. A hole drilled into the top of the vessel facilitated the storage of ground minerals (often a black kohl) used by both Egyptian men and women as eye-paint. However, it is uncertain whether or not this kohl pot was a functional vessel or a model interred as a burial good so that the deceased could have access to cosmetics in the afterlife. This faience kohl pot mimics more costly cosmetic vessels made of hard stone, which the Egyptians adeptly worked into masterful works of art. Though the flat circular lid is presently associated with the pot, it is uncertain whether the two formed a pair in antiquity.

Technical Research

An x-ray image shows how the object was drilled after the faience paste was fired into shape.

An x-ray image shows how the object was drilled after the faience paste was fired into shape.

An x-ray of the kohl pot shows the way in which this object was drilled to produce a well for the material it was meant to contain; however, this container is now empty, and it is unclear whether it ever held kohl. As per the study by undergraduates Ella Cammarato and Debbie Kim, this faience object was glazed with a copper-containing colorant, hence its blue color, an observation supported by x-ray fluorescence findings. It is unclear whether the lid and the pot originally belonged together, though further study of their faience compositions may provide more information. The lid has been broken and repaired, though this occurred prior to the object being accessioned into the Eton Collection when a paper sticker was attached over the re-adhered cracks.