Human curiosity has led to the exploration of historical facts and items across the globe, bringing forth discoveries that are unmatched. For example, Egypt alone has a wide array of archeological sites and artifacts that have intrigued scientists and researchers alike.
When the last Queen of Egypt, the depiction of the mother goddess Isis and the last true Pharaoh, Cleopatra VII, left behind a bottle of perfume, she probably didn’t think someone would attempt to reproduce it.
But, someone did; two archaeologists from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, to be exact.
After uncovering amphorae of perfume during a decades-long excavation in the ancient city of Thmuis – also known as Tell Timai – the residue found inside the jars was analyzed.
This pushed the two professors, Robert Littman and Jay Silverstein, to propose the idea of recreating the queen’s perfume to a pair of German researchers and experts on ancient Egyptian scents, Dora Goldsmith and Sean Coughlin.
To get as close as possible to the original thick and sticky concoction – one that is no longer used today – the researchers added myrrh (a fragrant gum resin extracted from a small and thorny tree species located across the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula) to cardamom, olive oil, and cinnamon.
Different scents can allow people to experience the stories behind them. Professor Littman believes “this was the Chanel No. 5 of ancient Egypt,” adding how much of a thrill it is “to smell a perfume that no one has smelled for 2,000 years and one which Cleopatra might have worn.”
The professors also found proof of an ancient fragrance industry at the Thmuis site. Third-century ovens, called kilns, were also unearthed at the site and are believed to have helped manufacture Egyptian clay perfume bottles, which were then turned to glass during the Roman occupation.
“Legend has it that when Cleopatra visited Marc Antony in Tarsus she doused the purple sails of her royal golden ship in enough perfume that it could be smelt long before it reached shore,” The Times’ Tom Knowles wrote.
To appease people’s curiosity, the perfume is on display at the “Queens of Egypt” exhibition by the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. until Sept. 15.