Wednesday, May 1, 2013

4,000 year-old perfumes

Clay jugs used to make and store ancient perfumes lie at an excavation site on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The 4,000-year-old fragrances—the world's oldest known perfumes—were re-created by an experimental archaeology center and are now on display at an Italian museum.

Photograph courtesy Maria Rosaria Belgiorno
This discovery was made back in 2003 and was reported by BBC News, but I only recently learnt about it and just wanted to share:

Italian archaeologists discovered a collection of perfumes dating back to the Bronze Age on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Excavation leader Maria Rosaria Belgiorn of the National Research Council in Rome believes the perfumes date back more than 4,000 years.

Remnants of the perfumes were found inside an ancient 3,230-square-foot (300-square-meter) factory that was part of a larger industrial complex at Pyrgos. It's believed that this 4,000 year-old factory manufactured fragrances for export across the Eastern Mediterranean. The buildings were destroyed during an earthquake in 1850 B.C., but perfume bottles, mixing jugs, and stills were preserved under the collapsed walls.

The buildings also housed an olive press, a winery and a copper smelting works. The scale of the site, and the presence of huge 500-litre oil-storage jars, suggests it was once the centre of a prosperous export business.

Belgiorn and a team of scientists analyzed the remants found in the mixing jugs and clay perfume bottles, and were able to identify extracts of laurel, cinnamon and myrtle (all of which would have  grown in this particular region at that time) among other ingredients.  They also discovered a number of fragrance recipes that had been created with the ingredients. Plants and herbs were ground up and mixed with olive oil in clay jugs, then distilled in a clay apparatus, Belgiorno explained.

The smell of the perfumes is "a nice experience that re-creates in our mind a sort of ancestral reminder," Belgiorn said in an email interview.

The archaeologist added that she doesn't know why the people of Cyprus started making and wearing perfumes 4,000 years ago.

Regardless of how the Cypriot perfumes were used, she believes today's fragrances just don't compare.

"We have lost the real world of natural fragrances," she said, "because most of the perfumes of today are chemical reproductions of the natural fragrances and scents."

(Adapted from BBC News.)


London Girl said...


scentualsoundtracks said...

I love this! Thanks for sharing.