Artifacts of beauty: Romans removed unwanted hair using tweezers


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Apr 11, 2023

Artifacts of beauty: Romans removed unwanted hair using tweezers

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It turns out that thousands of years ago, Romans preferred a clean-shaven look and engaged in painful hair removal activities.

Archaeologists from the New English Heritage Museum discovered dozens of tweezers from an ancient settlement that dates back to the 2nd to 4th century AD.

Over 50 tweezers — along with other interesting artifacts — were recovered from Wroxeter Roman City in Shropshire, England.

"At Wroxeter alone, we have discovered over 50 pairs of tweezers, one of the largest collections of this item in Britain, indicating that it was a popular accessory! The advantage of the tweezer was that it was safe, simple, and cheap, but unfortunately not pain-free," said Cameron Moffett, English Heritage Curator at Wroxeter Roman City, in an official release.

These artifacts provide invaluable insight into Roman life at the time.

The tweezers, along with 400 other items, have been displayed in a new museum at Wroxeter Roman City in Shropshire. According to the press release, most of these items will be displayed for the first time ever.

The archaeologists say all of these prehistoric items show that personal hygiene and beauty were important in Roman societies.

Both Roman men and women likely used tweezers to pluck out armpit hair, brow hair, and other unwanted bodily hair. They believe men would have used it to remove visible hair for sports such as wrestling.

Moffett explained: "It may come as a surprise to some that in Roman Britain, the removal of body hair was as common with men as it was with women. Particularly for sports like wrestling, there was a social expectation that men engaging in exercise that required minimal clothing would have prepared themselves by removing all their visible body hair. It's interesting to see this vogue for the removal of body hair around again after millennia, for everyone, although luckily, modern methods are slightly less excruciating!"

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Romans seemed to be obsessed with cleanliness and how they presented themselves in public. They also discovered a skin scraper (strigil), perfume bottles, bone jewelry, make-up applicators, and amulets to ward off evil at this location.

Evidence suggests that the Romans also practiced communal bathing. The wealthy had their own personal cleaning set, including an ear scoop, nail cleaner, bath oil, and tweezers.

Wroxeter Roman City (or Viriconium Cornoviorum, as it was known back then) is one of Britain's best-preserved Roman towns. And it was a bustling town at the time.

Archaeological excavations in this city have revealed numerous monumental building ruins. The scientific investigation revealed that this significant location once housed a forum, a market (macellum) for purchasing exotic goods, a community center, the bathhouse basilica (large hall), an education center, an office, and a shopping center.

This bathhouse was also a popular meeting spot for Romans. It also included a number of townhouses inhabited by Wroxeter's wealthy residents.

Other notable exhibits include deity figurines, a Roman water pipe, copper alloy cosmetic sets that were possibly used to apply eyeliner and shadows, and over 1000 jet jewelry beads.

The museum release highlights that these artifacts illuminate the Romans’ daily lives, business enterprises, and vibrant social lives.