Origin of ordinary things: Perfumes

Perfumes are believed to have originated from Egypt. / Net photo.

Smell can evoke feelings and bring back memories that we forgot we had. Perfume is, quite simply, a mastery of some of the most frequent scents, and the artful combination thereof to produce a unique smell for an individual person.

According to fragrance.com, Egyptians were responsible for the origin of perfume. They utilised scents in everything from religious ceremonies to burial preparations and even daily wear. The rich elites of Egyptian society, male and female alike, would adorn themselves with aromas like lily to denote their status.


Egyptians made perfume by distilling natural ingredients with non-scented oils. The most popular scents were derived from local flowers, fruits and aromatic woods. Incense was also used ceremonially and the trade of incense and myrrh played a large part in Egyptian international relations.


It’s said that great Egyptian leaders like Queen Cleopatra and Queen Hatshepsut used fragrances to scent their bodies, quarters, baths and even took perfume with them to the grave.


The first perfume maker on record was a woman chemist named Tapputi. Stories about her have been found on a clay tablet from Mesopotamia, dating back to the second millennium BC. Throughout the ages, different civilisations used fragrances and perfumes in many interesting ways.

The Persians took over the use of perfume as a sign of political status, but it wasn’t until the Greeks and Romans became acquainted with it that it began to be viewed as a form of art and produced in consistent quality. Archaeologists recently uncovered a perfume factory from 2,000 BC, located in Cyprus, which seemed to have specialised in the production of scents like coriander, laurel, myrtle, lavender, and rosemary. Perfume slowly spread throughout the globe, and for a while, scents were reserved, mainly for use in religious ceremonies. However, in 1190, perfume began to be produced commercially in Paris, and from there, it blossomed into a massive industry once more. This is according to perfumes.com.

According fragrance.com, early perfume was made using natural materials, such as bark, wood, roots, leaves, flowers and seeds.

These ancient civilisations often turned fragrant materials into balms to use in religious ceremonies or to anoint their bodies. Myrrh and frankincense were extracted from trees and made into incense while other plants like rose and peppermint were infused in oils.

As trade routes spread, a wider variety of scents could be used such as exotic spices and herbs. These items were often stilled in water and made into aromatherapy products.

The methods used to create perfume have changed drastically throughout the ages. Starting with the practice of carrying scented materials around in a sort of pouch and ending with the liquid perfume we have today, perfume creation and early uses are fascinating.


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