History of Perfume: Egypt

Egyptian hieroglyphics show that Ancient Egyptians were making perfume. This is fascinating, as the Egyptian culture is about 5000 years old. The perfume culture thus is older than the perfume history of India and far older than the history of European perfumery. Egyptian priests were a sort of early perfumers, they used aromatic resins to put on offerings. Burning incense was part of the ritual that connected humans with the Gods. Pleasing the deities was important. Pharaohs were entombed with fragrance. Even when archeologists are opening tombs the perfumes can be perceived near to their original smell. Besides Pharaohs also important figures were buried with scented oils.

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Egyptians used ingredients we still know today. They used jasmine oil, which nowadays is one of the most important perfume ingredient in classical perfumery. Then there is the famous frankincense resin they were using, gathered from the Boswellia shrub that still grows in the region, famous for the resinous trees are Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen. And of course Myrrh was also used by the Egyptian. Myrrh and frankincense both are still collected and used in modern luxury perfumery.

The history of perfume in ancient Egypt is only vaguely known. It is believed that perfume held a significant role in ancient Egyptian society, not only as a cosmetic and aromatic luxury but also as a symbol of divinity, status, and personal hygiene. The use of perfume in Egypt dates back to at least 3000 BCE, as evidenced by archaeological findings such as perfume bottles, residue, and depictions of fragrance application in tombs and artifacts. It is believed that perfume played an integral role in both religious rituals and everyday life.

Queen Cleopatra is believed to have used luxurious perfumes. Probably she owned exclusive perfume creations. To maintain this status of luxury the perfumes were used to preserve the deceased. The embalming process used in mummification involved the use of various aromatic substances, including myrrh and frankincense among others. These substances not only helped preserve the body but also masked the odors associated with decay. Together with oils, the oxygenation processes were slowed down and conservation was enabled.

The art of perfumery in ancient Egypt was highly sophisticated, involving the extraction of scents from a variety of natural materials. Essential oils and fragrances were derived from plant sources such as flowers, leaves, roots, and resins. The ancient Egyptians were adept at creating complex blends and infusions to achieve desired scents. They used methods like distillation and enfleurage (a technique involving the absorption of fragrances by fat) to extract and preserve fragrances. People from various social classes used some sort, maybe even cheap perfume in their daily lives.

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