History of Perfumes - Part 2

History of Perfumes - Part 2

We are now in the era, just before the birth of Christ i.e BC or BCE (Before Christ or Before Common Era) and humans have now grown in knowledge of the ingredients they used to make perfumes and the techniques they used to do so.

Let us visit some crucial places where the emphasis on the art of perfumery was way ahead at that time.

 

Greece

The ancient Greeks had a plethora of Gods & Goddesses, they associated a different fragrance for every deity in worshipping and carrying out rituals associated with them. They believed that something so aromatic, fragrant & beautiful must have come from the gods themselves. There were plenty of botanists at that time who wrote about fragrant ingredients and how to use them.

In the beginning, the Greeks only knew to burn ingredients to get their aroma, however soon they started to mince plants, resins & woods together and suspended them in oil to get what we know today as perfume oils.

Also, the importance of hygiene dawned upon the Grecians at this time and they started bathing and using perfume oils (cause they believed that perfumes thwarted diseases).

The most amazing anecdote of 'seduction through perfume' is also associated with this era, If history were to appoint a brand ambassador for the ancient art of Perfumes then it has to be Queen Cleopatra. Texts document the first-ever use of perfumes for seduction when Cleopatra laced the sails of her ship with fragrant ingredients to seduce Roman politician Marcus Antonius. This seduction worked so well that Marcus or Mark later became her husband.

Further, due to the conquests of Alexander the Great, trade from eastern parts of the world brought in exotic fragrant ingredients such as spices, resins, and flowers to the land of Greece. All of which led to the sudden popularity of Perfumes & perfume shops all around the kingdom.

 

Rome

It shall not be the first time that we learn of the influence the Greeks had on the Romans or vice-versa.  The news of the usage of perfume in Greece spread like wildfire between the people of Rome.

The Romans did not invent the art of perfumery but they sure popularised the usage of it and that too to such an extent that they gave the word 'Perfume' to the world.

In short, the Romans went crazy about perfumes so much that documents show Rome used around 3000 tons of Frankincense in a year. They used ointments with aromatic ingredients for massages and the use of Rosewater became extremely popular during Roman's world-renowned public baths.

They sourced the perfume ingredients from areas of conquests and this sudden inflow of perfume ingredients saw a rapid enhancement in the ancillary activities associated with Perfumery. For example, blow molding distillation and the use of glass bottles for storing perfumes were developed during this time.

But, the Roman empire fell just as quickly as it gained prominence and the advancement in the world of perfumes took a standstill.

 

While Roman & Grecians were doing their thing, the world was not sitting cross-legged waiting for things to happen. In India, the temples were being built out of Sandalwood and perfumed ingredients were being used in Tantric & religious rituals.

In China & Japan, they started infusing their surroundings and everyday objects with aromatic ingredients.

January 18, 2021 — Scent Split
History of Perfumes - Part 1

History of Perfumes - Part 1

There is hardly a person alive right now that has not experienced fragrances in their lives. Be it the smell of flowers in a bouquet, the smell of freshly cut grass, the smell of wet soil after rain, or the smell of leather seats in a New Car. We all have directly encountered the wonderful work our olfactory senses do which either makes us roll back our eyes in pleasure or makes us constrict our nostrils to avoid inhaling any of the unpleasant fumes. 

 

Fragrances have been a part of our lives since time immemorial but we did not directly start with the perfume bottles we know and love today. Instead, we started by burning resins, woods & spices or by incorporating flower petals in everyday use. In fact, the word perfume is derived from the Latin word, "per fumus," meaning through smoke. It was this activity of burning scented ingredients that we started with, on our journey to reach the complex fragrances we have on our shelves today.

 

Throughout history, various civilizations have started using fragrances in their own manner and we know about all of them, thanks to the work of archaeologists & historians, who find tangible proofs of such events through digging & thorough research. These finds have placed the development & use of fragrances throughout the globe & at varying time periods. Let us briefly visit the ancient civilizations where they used the art of fragrances.

 

Indus Valley Civilization

In India, archaeologists have found a terracotta distillation apparatus along with oil containers in the excavation of Indus Valley civilization (located at the western & north-western parts of India) and are carbon-dated to 3000BCE. One of the earliest distillation of Ittar(essential oil derived from botanical sources) was mentioned in the Hindu ayurvedic texts "Charaka Samhita" & Sushruta Samhita which were written around the 6th to 2nd century BCE. Both texts discuss the manufacture of perfumes for royalties & their respective harem's counterpart.

 

Cyprus

In the Island of Cyprus, various excavations uncovered evidence of a humongous area where possibly a perfume manufacturing factory existed around 4000 years ago. Which goes to show that even the people of that time knew the benefits of perfume mass manufacturing.

 

Civilization of Mesopotamia

Evidence of the world's earliest known chemist & coincidentally world's earliest perfumer "Tapputi" were found at the sites of the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia. The evidence in the form of a stone tablet described how Tapputi held a prestigious place in the Mesopotamian government & religion and how she developed methods of scent extraction & using solvents (a practice which is the precursor to modern perfume-making techniques).

 

Egypt

Nearly 4000-year-old evidence was also found of Egyptian priests & their Pharaohs being entombed with sweet-smelling resins, woods & spices. Similarly, a concoction, known as 'Kyphi', of at least 16 different aromatic ingredients was burned to appease the Egyptian God Ra.

The usage of perfumes is interwoven in history & religion, like the first writings about fragrant ingredients date back to 4500BCE(found in China). Even the Bible & Quran mention recipes of perfumes and how to use the ingredients.

 

We only know about the above due to the hard work of historians & archaeologists. Since history is defined by the tangible & undispitable proofs we find for it, it will not be wrong to say that we humans have always used fragrances because scented flowers, resins & woods have always been present in nature.

 

 

January 15, 2021 — Scent Split