Thursday, January 4, 2024

Smells Throughout History

Proof that part of the Roman Empire smelled of patchouli
May 2023,

Two thousand years ago, in the Roman city of Carmo (today's Carmona), in the province of Seville, someone placed a vessel of ointment in a funerary urn. A small hyaline quartz rock crystal flask, carved in the shape of an amphora, contained the ointment.

The ointment was preserved because of the Dolomite used as a stopper, and the bitumen used to seal it.

Two components of the perfume have been identified: a base or binder, which allowed for the preservation of the aromas, and the essence itself; these findings according with descriptions by none other than Pliny the Elder. The base was a vegetable oil, possibly olive oil. The essence was of patchouli, widely used in modern perfumery, but whose use in Roman times was not known. 

via University of Córdoba: Daniel Cosano et al, Archaeometric Identification of a Perfume from Roman Times, Heritage (2023). DOI: 10.3390/heritage6060236

Unbottling the scent of the afterlife: New study of ancient Egyptian mummification balms
Aug 2023,

They used gas and liquid chromatography to reconstruct mummification substances, i.e., balm residues, found in two canopic jars from the mummification equipment used to embalm the noble lady Senetnay in the 18th dynasty, circa 1450 BCE.

The team found that the balms contained a blend of beeswax, plant oil, fats, bitumen, Pinaceae resins (most likely larch resin), a balsamic substance, and dammar or Pistacia tree resin.

Working closely with the French perfumer Carole Calvez and the sensory museologist Sofia Collette Ehrich, the team meticulously recreated the scent based on their analytical findings.

(Sensory museologist: exists)

via the Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology and Moesgaard Museum in Denmark: Barbara Huber, Biomolecular characterization of 3500-year-old ancient Egyptian mummification balms from the Valley of the Kings, Scientific Reports (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-39393-y.


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