Researchers re-create the perfume of Egyptian queen Cleopatra

Researchers re-create the perfume of Egyptian queen Cleopatra
Updated 12 August 2019

Researchers re-create the perfume of Egyptian queen Cleopatra

Researchers re-create the perfume of Egyptian queen Cleopatra
  • Team uncovers evidence of perfume industry in Thmuis
  • Fragrance reproduced with ancient formula using myrrh

DUBAI: If you have ever wondered what perfume Cleopatra used, then two professors from the University of Hawaii at Manoa may have an answer for you.

After finding ancient perfume containers in Thmuis, an ancient Egyptian city in the Nile Delta also referred to as Tell Timai, professor Robert Littman and adjunct professor Jay Silverstein approached two experts on ancient Egyptian fragrances to recreate the legendary queen’s perfume.

Researchers Dora Goldsmith and Sean Coughlin reproduced the fragrance with the help of ancient Greek formulas from myrrh, a natural gum extracted from the small and thorny tree species.

“What a thrill it is to smell a perfume that no one has smelled for 2,000 years and one which Cleopatra might have worn,” Littman said.

The perfume is part of an exhibition by the National Geographic society, titled “Queens of Egypt,” in Washington, DC, where it will remain until Sept. 15.

Littman and Silverstein stumbled upon historic evidence of the ancient fragrance industry during excavations in Thmuis. The city is considered to be the hub of some of the most famous perfumes during ancient times.

The professors uncovered a variety of kilns from the third century BCE, which were used to produce fine lekythoi, or perfume bottles. The kilns themselves were made from imported clays.

During the excavations in 2012, the professors discovered a liquid manufacturing area and a stockpile of gold and silver coins near kilns. The discovery suggests it may have been the house of a perfume merchant.