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2019|August 22, Thursday

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The “scent of Cleopatra” reanimated

Researchers seem to have deciphered one important element of Cleopatra’s attractiveness. They have managed to recreate the scent she used.

The “scent of Cleopatra” reanimated

After years of work, a research team claims they have re-created Cleopatra's perfume. Robert Littman and Jay Silverstein, professors at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, have long been researching ancient perfumes, and the scent of Cleopatra, the legendary and the last ruler of Egypt, is one of their favorite research topics.

Their journey began at the archeological excavation of the ancient Egyptian city Thmuis (today Tell Timai). The settlement was founded 4,500 years ago and it was home for two famous perfumes of the antiquity, Mendesian and Metopian.

Archaeologists discovered a vast complex of kilns in the city, which date back to the 3rd century BC. The kilns were used for manufacturing fine perfume bottles and amphorae. That manufacturing activity was practiced before and after the Roman conquest of Egypt.

Some of the amphorae preserved residue of ingredients, which ancient Egyptians used to make perfumes around 2,000 years ago. Relying on the data they had received by the study of these ingredients and also on ancient descriptions researchers were able to reconstruct the recipes of ancient perfumes.

Due to age and location, it is assumed, that Cleopatra might have used any of these. The researchers’ perfume is based on myrrh, which is obtained from a tree native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. In addition, ingredients, such as olive oil, cinnamon or cardamom, which are also used today, are added to the reanimated stuff.

The result is a substance, which is more sticky and dense than today’s perfumes and gives off a pleasant spicy fragrance that, according to the researchers, lingers longer than modern perfumes.

The fragrance of Cleopatra is no longer a secret.

The “scent of Cleopatra” reanimated
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