Throughout centuries, starting in antiquity at least, galena (PbS) is reported as a black pigment. This is for painting but also (in Egypt and Rome) as a cosmetic. Soot is a more effective pigment though. And while Galena is common for a mineral, it was certainly less trivial than soot was in cultures that always had oil lamps around. Why did they choose galena?

  • Lamp Black, which uses soot from burned fat, oil, tar, or resin, has a bluish tinge to the black. Therefore Galena may have been a truer black. – Pieter Geerkens Feb 7 '18 at 23:42
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    You might find this interesting 'Black Earths': A Study of Unusual Black and Dark Grey Pigments used by Artists in the Sixteenth Century. The article that can be downloaded from that National Gallery site states that "the properties of galena place it in the same category as stibnite, bismuth and tin-rich bronze, since it is a grey pigment rather than a true black. " – Fred Feb 8 '18 at 11:29
  • Soot was also commonly used as eg ink in Asia. Maybe practical reasons like good dispersant, durability of the resulted paint, hydrophilic or hydrophobic behavior etc may played role. – Greg Feb 8 '18 at 15:18

I think it is because soot is like a smear and Galena can be applied in a very fine way. Also Galena will not be affected by sweat while soot will form droplets.

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