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Table of Contents: Beauty in History

Modifying the Body: Tattoos and Piercings Kasey West: Body modification in the form of tattooing and piercing is traditionally viewed with reserve in contemporary Western societies. Those with tattoos or piercings are seen as rebellious and defiant of social conventions. However, body adornment in other non-Western cultures plays an expressive role in the articulation of cultural and religious values.

Chinese Beauty Through the Changes of Time Kasey West: A fascinating account of the history of beauty standards in China from the 1st century B.C. to the 21st century. Some great photographs too.

The Venus of BrassempouyAncestral Man Is there any evidence to suggest that our earliest hominid ancestors might have had an aesthetic sense or were they really just unfeeling brutes with no appreciation of natural or human beauty? There is some evidence that aesthetic feelings and an appreciation for beauty might go back hundreds of thousands of years.


Betty GrableHistory of the Beauty Pageant Beauty Worlds: Paris of Troy had to choose which of three beauties was the most comely and the Trojan War was started. The controversy over beauty pageants continues to this day. Do beauty pageants exploit women or do they provide a useful function enabling women to develop useful career and personality enhancing skills?

ButterflyGoddesses Fly Again: Butterfly Images in Mexican Myth and Textiles Gary Noel Ross: Butterflies in Mexican mythology linking beauty, butterflies, the feminine and death. From The North American Butterfly Association.


CleopatraQueen of the Nile: Cleopatra Beauty Worlds: A biography of Cleopatra. Was she beautiful or not? In any case, she has left her mark on history. Involved with various powerful men of the times, was she a manipulative schemer who used her position and sex to ensnare men or was she a patriot?

Aztec WarriorAztecs: Ambivalence and Beauty Beauty Worlds: Read about the Aztecs and their ambivalent attitude towards beauty and women. The Aztecs had one of the most astonishing civilizations with marvelous cities, gardens and thriving commerce. Yet, their religion was built around human sacrifice.

Mayan stelaeThe Mayan Beauty Ideal Beauty Worlds: The beauty ideal of the Mayans. They were one of the great civilizations of MesoAmerica with strong standards of beauty. One of the great mysteries of history is what led to the destruction of the Mayan civilization. Was it natural catastrophe, over-population, or strife between city states?

Olmec HeadThe Olmecs Beauty Worlds: Judging by the large statues of heads which they carved the Olmecs were fascinated by big, powerful men. Find out about this strange and ancient MesoAmerican culture.

Mayan pyramid

MesoAmerican Photos The ancient cultures of Mesoamerica were both highly artistic and very bloodthirsty. Here you can see some of marvelous artistic and architechtural achievements. There are pyramids and temples here to rival those of the ancient Egyptians.


Chinese girl with bound feetChinese Foot-Binding Jim A. Crites: Over a thousand years a billion Chinese women endured the torment of foot binding in the name of beauty. It is hard for people in modern times to understand how such a painful and debilitating practice flourished for so long. From Jim A. Crites

HathorWhat was it like to be an Ancient Egyptian woman? Beauty Worlds: Did she worry about how she looked, about her weight, about the first appearance of wrinkles on her skin? Did she diet and compare her figure with her friends? Was she bothered about bad breath and stretch marks?

Egyptian wigHair in Ancient Egypt The ancient Egyptians dyed their hair and wore wigs made out of all kinds of materials. They were entranced with different and 'non-natural' colours well in advance of the pluralistic ideas which flourish in modern societies today.


NefertitiNefertiti Her name means "the beautiful one is come" and this ancient Egyptian queen is revered as one of the most beautiful women of all time. She was the wife of the Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, of the 18th Dynasty of the period of ancient Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom. He ruled from 1353-1336 BC. and changed his name to Akhenaten about 1348 BC.

RamesesAncient Egypt Ancient Egyptian history is of enduring interest and has inspired generations of archaeologists. There is a brief overview of ancient Egyptian history in order to put ancient Egyptian beauty ideas and practices into context.


Cosmetic vesselThe Cosmetic and Perfume Practices of the Ancient Egyptians Aimee Bove: Find out about how ancient Egyptians used cosmetics and perfume and what ingredients they used.



the SphinxAncient Egyptian Photos Enjoy fabulous shots of ancient Egyptian monuments and other works of art.


King Sargon of AkkadCosmetics, Styles, and Beauty Concepts in Iran An interesting overview of cosmetics and beauty in ancient Persia history with fascinating photographs.


Queen Elizabeth I in Renaissance dressAn Analysis of Women’s Dress as Related to Ideals of Beauty and Social Status Sarah Andrews: Women's dress and beauty in Ancient Greece, Renaissance, 19th Cent. and modern times. How does dress relate to culture and to the place of women within that culture?

Roman dressRoman Makeover Sally Pointer: Want to look like an ancient Roman? What were the ingredients of their cosmetics? How would you like to look like a wealthy Roman lady? Find out how to have a Roman makeover.


'Fuji' by HokusaiBeauty and Desire in Edo Japan Peter Symonds: The "Floating World" of the Ukiyo-e. Samurai, geishas, warlords and elegant art.


The Inuit The ancient peoples of the arctic have adapted well to their harsh but beautiful land.

Inuit Art The Inuit of the 'Dorset culture' carved in the materials available to them, antler, bone, ivory, wood, and stone. With their stone carving implements they made delicate and exquisite carvings of animals, particularly bears and seals, and human beings. While some of the representations of animals are naturalistic they also carved forms which were combinations of humans and bears and humans and seals.


You can see a good selection of books on Ancient Egypt here. recommends the following books from


forum has brand new forum and chat facilities. Find out what others around the globe think about beauty in cultures past and present here.


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Awakening BeautyAnthony Napoleon, the author of Awakening Beauty: An Illustrated Look at Mankind's Love and Hatred of Beauty, is a psychologist who has spent many years studying beauty and its impact upon both individuals and society. He has worked with both cosmetic surgery patients and beauty pageant contestants as well as conducting original research into the field. Awakening Beauty is an unprecedented exposé on the subject of beauty. It is both entertaining and thought provoking, a combination that is as unique as it is telling about the author's approach to the subject of this book. The reader is taken backstage into the worlds of beauty pageants, plastic surgery, trophy wives, murderous rage, wardrobe, makeup, Bill Clinton, the events of September Eleven and other provocative topics where beauty has had its effect. Awakening Beauty invites the reader into a world that is as interesting as it is frightening. Readers are transformed as the author shepherds them from their world into his unique perspective and expertise on beauty. Awakening Beauty includes over one hundred tantalizing photographs and illustrations. Awakening Beauty is a compendium of some of the most interesting facts in print. The subject matter of the book along with the author's unique approach to it makes this book a "must read." Get ready to re-think everything you thought you knew about beautiful women and physical attractiveness.

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