Lorrae Mcleod, Campaign Events Coordinator: In a small display at the end of our Roman gallery, which visitors often walk straight past, there is a tarnished canister, 6 centimetres wide, made of tin – a precious metal in Roman times. If polished, it would be bright and shiny, decorated with circles, just like a pot of make up on sale today.
Dating from 150 AD, it was found in 2003 at excavations of a Roman temple site in Southwark. Our curator called it “exquisite” and said he’d never come across a box with a perfectly sealed lid. Inside that little tin, we have 2,000 year old face cream. In the display there is a photo of the tin, lid removed, and if you look closely you can see, in the perfectly preserved white cream, a fingerprint.
Did this belong to a wealthy Roman lady, at the temple to hope and pray for something in her life, taking one last dab of precious cream for her face, before so carefully replacing the lid and leaving it as an offering. Every morning, I think of that lady as I put moisturiser on my face, from a jar just like the tin in our gallery. Did she get her wish?