Thursday, March 19, 2009
Egyptian Queen's Perfume To Be Resurrected
If ancient treasures and discoveries fascinate you like they do me, you will find this very interesting:
The favorite scent of powerful Egyptian "she king" Hatshepsut may be resurrected from the dried remains and residue found in a 3,500-year-old perfume bottle (pictured at top).
X-ray photographs of the 4.7-inch-tall (12-centimeter-tall) bottle, from the permanent collection of Bonn University's Egyptian Museum, reveals remnants of the ancient oil. Scientists plan to identify the substance and, possibly within a year, re-create the perfume.
The bottle, which was found in the queen's possessions after her death in 1457 B.C., is engraved with a hieroglyph of her name.
The thin neck "allows a very economical dosing of the valuable content," according to Michael Höveler-Müller, curator of Bonn University's Egyptian Museum. A small clay stopper would have kept the oil from spilling.
"In every case our research will touch new grounds and will maybe enable us to put our noses back into a time more than 3,500 years [ago]," Höveler-Müller said.
Queen Hatshepsut took the Egyptian throne in 1479 B.C. to keep her stepson, Thutmose III, from becoming pharaoh.
Though her mummy was found more than a century ago, archaeologists didn't identify it as the queen until 2007, by matching a tooth thought to be hers with an empty socket in the mummy's jaw.
Throughout her 20-year reign, the pharaoh wore both male and female clothing, but was always fond of perfume—a symbol of power in ancient Egypt.
Perfume was also considered valuable and was used on special occasions by members of the upper class and high society, Höveler-Müller said.
The exact type of perfume is still unknown, but Michael Höveler-Müller speculates it could be from flowers, fruits, aromatic woody plants, or incense.
The influential queen enjoyed perfume, even traveling to the ancient trading post of Punt, in modern-day Eritrea, to buy incense plants and other dazzling goods.
Upon her return, Hatshepsut cultivated the fragrant plants near her funerary temple.
These photos were taken from the National Geographic website.
The key to Hatshepsut's identity was discovered in the wooden box seen on the bottom left, originally unearthed in a separate tomb in 1881.
The box is inscribed with Hatshepsut's name and contains the mummified organs of the pharaoh queen.