Romans were obsessed with beauty: dozens of tweezers discovered in Roxeter City

Archaeological excavations at Roxeter City, one of the largest settlements of Roman Britain, have led to the discovery of more than 50 pairs of tweezers. This indicates that the Romans were very devoted to their appearance and public image. The Roman town of Roxeter, Shropshire or Viriconium Cornoviorum, as it was originally known, was as large as Pompeii in its heyday and is one of the best preserved Roman towns in Britain.

The Romans were devoted to communal bathing, went to the baths daily, and many had their own personal cleaning kit, which included an ear scoop, nail cleaner, and tweezers. Tweezers were not only used to remove eyebrow hair as we might imagine today. The Roman Britons preferred a clean shaven look to distinguish themselves from the “barbarians” and to keep up with fashion in Rome. However, plucking hair was a painful business, which was often done by slaves.

It may come as a surprise to some that in Roman Britain the removal of body hair was common to both men and women. Particularly in sports such as wrestling, society expected men engaged in physical activities requiring minimal clothing to prepare by removing all visible body hair.

English Heritage announced it would display the items in the restored museum, which opened May 25. More than 400 objects, including items that shed light on bathing and beauty practices in Roman Britain, will be on display at Wroxeter Roman City in Shropshire.

During the excavation, other grooming supplies of the era were discovered, including an ear scoop and nail cleaner. Glass perfumes, bath oils, and even bottles of makeup applicators were also found.

Archaeological excavations in the Roman city of Roxeter uncovered monumental buildings at its heart; the forum – where laws were passed, the marketplace (macellum) – where customers bought exotic goods, the basilica of the bath (great hall) – which acted as a social center, a place of education, an office and a shopping center – all at first, the bath itself, where they bathed and socialized, and finally the townhouses – Roxeter had many wealthy residents living throughout the city in more than a hundred large townhouses.

Cameron Moffett, curator of the English Heritage site at Wroxeter, stressed that the discovery of more than 50 pairs of tweezers indicates that it was a popular accessory.

“The advantage of tweezers was that they were safe, easy and cheap, but unfortunately not painless,” she said.

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