CAIRO – 6 June 2022: Cleopatra VII is considered the most famous woman of antiquity.
This prompted archaeologists to search for the mysteries related to the life of this famous Egyptian queen. Researchers from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa recently tried to shed light on a very special aspect of the queen's life related to the perfume she used to wear. So what results have they achieved in this field?
Cleopatra VII, who was born in 69 and died in 30 BC, was the last ruling pharaoh of Egypt before the Romans took power, ending a dynastic rule that lasted 5,000 years.
Since 2012, professors Robert Littman and Jay Silverstein have been researching the perfumes that she queen was using based on a study of a site for the manufacture of pharaonic perfumes, which they found in the ruins of the Egyptian town of Thmuis, also known as Tel El-Timai.
This research was based on the study of bottles and containers that contain dried perfume residues. Archaeologists and researchers Dora Goldsmith and Sean Coughlin, experts in ancient Egyptian perfumes, were contacted to test different recipes for ancient perfumes, all with the aim of reproducing the perfume that Queen Cleopatra VII used to wear. This is done through the traditional methods described in ancient texts.
In the fourth century BC, Egyptian perfume recipes were written in Greek. In the first century BC, some of these recipes appeared in Latin texts.
After reviewing these documents, researchers found two perfumes that were especially appreciated by the ancient Egyptian elites, the Mandesian and Metopian. The main ingredient of these two fragrances is the myrrh extracted from the gum of trees that grow in an area that is now known as Yemen. The researchers combined different ingredients and cooked the perfumes in various ways to come up with a composition in 2019 that mixes spices, such as cardamom, and cinnamon, with myrrh and olive oil.
"This perfume has not been inhaled by anyone for more than 2000 years," said Littman about the perfume.
This fragrance was first presented at the "Queens of Egypt" exhibition held at the National Geographic Museum in Washington. However, doubts remained about the accuracy of its composition, so the researchers decided to perform additional chemical analysis in order to reconstruct the perfume that Cleopatra VII might have used.
The result of this research will turn into a perfume that will be displayed this summer at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.