The aroma of the afterlife: the exclusive perfume of the mummies of ancient Egypt is ‘resurrected’

by archynewsycom
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In ancient Egypt no one smelled better than the dead. The most sophisticated perfumes for ladies were reserved for the transition to the afterlife. A juggling of biochemistry, alchemy and trips through the Middle East in search of impossible aromas until finding the best fragrance for the viscera. In Perfume of Süskind believed that “he who dominated the smells, dominated the hearts of men”, but in ancient Egypt who dominated the smells, dominated eternity.

Barbara Huber, a Geoanthropology researcher at the Max Planck Institute, has risen the scent of mummies. Specifically, that of the Egyptian lady Senetnay, who will be presented, or rather sniffed at, in an upcoming exhibition at the Museo Moesgaard de Denmark. A journey back in time through the nose to reach the Egypt of the 18th dynasty, that of the warrior pharaohs.

Working closely with French perfumer Carole Calvez and sensory museologist Sofia Collette Ehrich, the team meticulously recreated the fragrance. The researchers used the latest in gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to completely reconstruct the strange and sophisticated mixture of substances that helped preserve and perfume the Senetnay mummy for eternity, or at least 3,500 years.

The Egyptian lady lived around the year 1,450 BC, was nurse of Pharaoh Amenhotep II during his childhood, and bore the title of “King’s Ornament”. After his death, his mummified organs were stored in four jars in the tomb KV42 from the Valley of the Kings. There they were found in 1900 by the famous English archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carterand are now on display in the German August Kestner Museum in Hannover.

The authors propose that the complexity of the balms and the use of imported ingredients used in Senetnay’s mummification reflect his high social status, and indicate that he was a key member of the pharaoh’s inner circle. It should be remembered that in ancient Egypt women had the same rights as men. In the home she held a position of power, and unlike her contemporaries in the rest of the world, she could accumulate wealth, sell land, and disinherit a child. Not to mention that she had total freedom in intimacy with her partners, to the point that there were no sexual taboos, and intimate encounters between family members were not considered incest.

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