Recreating the perfume of Queen Cleopatra 2,000 years ago

Scientists rely on sediments in the perfume factory and the ancient formula to create the aroma of Cleopatra that can be used.

The team at the University of Hawaii at Manoa recreates Egyptian queen perfume Cleopatra could have used it based on sediment found in a long-life amphora."This is the perfume Chanel No. 5 of ancient Egypt," said archaeologist Robert Littman.

Picture 1 of Recreating the perfume of Queen Cleopatra 2,000 years ago
Cleopatra Queen.(Photo: Wikipedia).

Littman and his colleague Jay Silverstein came up with the idea while excavating the Egyptian city of Thmuis in northern Cairo in the Nile Delta, formed in 4500 BC. The area is home to two of the most famous perfumes in the ancient world: Mendesian and Metopian . Therefore, when they found the remnants of a perfume factory filled with small glass jars and clay balls, researchers tried to find a way to restore any scent left.

The two-strap jar does not contain any recognizable scent, but has dried sediment. Dora Goldsmith and Sean Coughlin reproduce the fragrance of Thmuis perfume, using the formula found in Greek Materia medica and many other materials.

Picture 2 of Recreating the perfume of Queen Cleopatra 2,000 years ago
Medicinal herbs, ingredients are available in both Mendesian and Metopian fragrances.(Photo: Atlas Obscura).

Both Mendesian and Metopian fragrances contain medicinal wood, a natural aromatic resin derived from a small plant with thorns. Experts also added cardamom, green olive oil and little cinnamon according to the recipe. The finished product has a strong pungent odor and slightly resembles musk . "I feel it is very pleasant and stays longer than the modern perfume," Littman said.

Ancient Egyptians used perfume in rituals. The perfume was made into a cone of wax on the head and dripped into the hair all day. According to Littman, the perfume was thicker than it is today because of the nature of olive oil.

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