In the second theory, kohl is thought to have been a status symbol and to have had spiritual and ritualistic significance. Historians and anthropologists have repeatedly linked the kohl-blackened eyes seen in Egyptian art to Horus, an ancient god with many associations, but most often depicted as a falcon. The Eye of Horusknown as wedjatwas used as a symbol of protection. The symbol of the eye is heavily outlined, so it is easy to see why the connection has been made.
Another spiritual association is the link between the goddess Hathor and malachite; perhaps, for Egyptian women, applying the powder to one’s eyes was to share in something of the essence of Hathor herself. Black eye makeup is so popular today that it is hard to imagine a time when it wasn’t used. Women in ancient Greece used burnt cork and soot to fill in their eyebrows, which were considered most beautiful when they connected across the bridge of the nose. Black is boundless, the imagination races in the dark.
Derek Jarman, Chroma Whatever the initial reasoning behind the use of kohl, it is likely that what started out as a basic or practical need later became decorative. Color may have been added as an afterthought to unguents and ointments used to keep out dust, but we know that fashions in kohl application changed throughout Egyptian history. In the Old Kingdom (c. 2686 2181 BC), emerald-green eye shadow and kohl was the most popular combination for eye defining and brow shading, applied from the inner eyebrow to the tip of the nose. Later, in the New Kingdom (c. 1550 1070 BC), black replaced green as the color of choice. King Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus depicts the pharaoh with heavy eyeliner that extends from the outer corners of the eyes to the temples.
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