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Jos Strengholt

Egyptians: inventors of toothpaste?

In our article on the subject of fascinating Ancient Egyptian inventions, we talked about how some of them “intrinsically related to personal hygiene, health, and even fashion”, ranging from eye makeup, wigs to breath mints and toothpaste. Pertaining to the latter, the world’s oldest known formula for a toothpaste unsurprisingly comes from Egypt. To that end, a papyrus dating from circa 4th century AD contains the recipe for what had been described by the ancient scribe as ‘powder for white and perfect teeth’ that transformed into a ‘clean tooth paste’. And quite interestingly, the ingredients were written in black ink (made of soot and gum arabic) – incidentally, another invention of the ancient Egyptians.

Now judging by the date of origin of this papyrus, it should be noted that the document was written in Greek – the language preferred by the local elites since the time of the Ptolemaic dynasty (305 BC – 30 BC) and later Romans (30 BC – 641 AD). As for the ingredients and their measurement, the more than 1,500-year old recipe called for one drachma (one-hundredth of an ounce) of rock salt, one drachma of mint, and one drachma of the dried iris flower, all mixed with around 20 grains of pepper. According to the document, the composition should form a paste-like consistency when in contact with the saliva of the mouth.

Read the whole story here: Egyptians: inventors of toothpaste?