Queen of scents: Fancy wearing the same perfume as Cleopatra? | Life

‘The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 BC’ by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1883). — Picture courtesy of Domaine Public through ETX Studio

NEW YORK, May 15 — She is no doubt the most well-known lady of Antiquity. For centuries, archeologists have been making an attempt to unravel the many mysteries surrounding Cleopatra, the final queen of Egypt. Researchers at the University of Hawaii are attempting to make clear a really particular facet of her private style: Her perfume.

Professors Robert Littman and Jay Silverstein launched into this formidable challenge in 2012, once they excavated a perfume-making website in the ruins of the Lower Egyptian metropolis of Thmuis, now referred to as Tell el-Timai. There, they notably found perfume bottles and amphorae containing dry residues of perfume.

The archaeologists then approached researchers Dora Goldsmith and Sean Coughlin — two specialists on historical Egyptian perfume — to assist them take a look at completely different historical perfume recipes. The objective was to breed the perfume that Queen Cleopatra VII Philopator might have worn, in line with conventional strategies described in historical texts. In the fourth century BC, Egyptian perfume recipes have been written in Greek, and in the first century BC, they featured in Latin texts.

Based on these paperwork, the researchers discovered that two fragrances have been significantly prized by the elites of historical Egypt. These have been Mendesian and Metopian, two scents based mostly on myrrh, an expensive fragrant gum produced from the resin of bushes rising in a area that corresponds to modern-day Yemen. 

A perfume that “nobody has smelled for two,000 years”
The researchers mixed completely different components and cooked the scents in numerous methods, lastly ensuing, in 2019, in a potent and spicy scent combining myrrh, cardamom, olive oil and cinnamon. It was a perfume that “nobody has smelled for two,000 years,” as Robert Littman defined in an announcement at the time.
While this perfume was included in the exhibition “Queens of Egypt” at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., there are nonetheless some uncertainties about the accuracy of its composition. According to Hyperallergic, the analysis staff is making ready to conduct additional chemical evaluation to recreate much more precisely the perfume Cleopatra might have worn. They additionally plan to return to Egypt this summer season to convey a pattern of the residue to Abdelrahman Medhat, a conservator at the Cairo Museum.
Despite advances in science, this can be very tough to make excellent replicas of perfumes worn centuries in the past. In 2005, perfumer Mandy Aftel tried, unsuccessfully, to recreate a perfume worn by Sherit, a four- or five-year-old Egyptian lady whose mummy has been preserved for many years in a San Diego museum. — ETX Studio


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