GENERICO.ruScienceDeciphered the "aroma of eternal life" from the burials of the Egyptian pharaohs

Deciphered the “aroma of eternal life” from the burials of the Egyptian pharaohs

“It was a profound and almost surreal experience”

An ancient scent recently revived may help reveal the life of a woman buried with the pharaohs. Scientists have deciphered an ancient fragrance by identifying the ingredients used in Egyptian mummification balms and revived this fragrance.

Photo: Museum August Kestner

Those who yearn to experience this the scent of the past will be able to find what researchers have called the “perfume of eternity” at an upcoming exhibition at the Mosgaard Museum in Denmark, according to CNN.

The scent, also referred to as the “perfume of eternal life”, is based on beeswax, vegetable oils and tree resins from distant lands, which the team found in balms used over 3,500 years ago to preserve Senetney, a noble woman whose remains were discovered in the Egyptian Valley kings in 1900.

This discovery provides insight into Senetney's social status, as well as the methods used to preserve her remains, and the significance of the ingredients in the balm. A study detailing the findings was published Thursday in Scientific Reports.

“The embalming ingredients found in Senetney balms are among the most complex and varied ever identified from this period, suggesting the care and refinement with which the balms were created,” says lead author Barbara Huber, a doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology in Germany.

“The presence of such a wide range of ingredients, including exotic substances such as dammar or pistachio resin, indicates that extremely rare and expensive materials were used to embalm her,” added Barbara Huber. – This indicates the exclusive status of Senetney in society”.

Little is known about Senetney, but previous research has established that she lived around 1450 BC and was the nurse of Pharaoh Amenhotep II, the long-awaited son and heir of Pharaoh Thutmose III. She took care of Amenhotep II and breastfed him in infancy.

According to historical records, Senetney was awarded the title “Ornament of the King” and became a valuable member of the pharaoh's entourage. After her death, the vital organs of Senetney were embalmed and placed in four canopies with lids in the shape of human heads (a canopy is a ritual vessel with a lid in the shape of a human or animal head, in which the ancient Egyptians kept the organs extracted during mummification from the bodies of the dead).< /p>

The Egyptians carefully removed organs such as the lungs, liver, stomach, and intestines during the mummification process to prevent bacterial growth and better preserve the body. According to the study, the Egyptians believed in preserving the body for the afterlife, so that the human soul had somewhere to return.

After the embalming process, the jars were placed in the royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings, where the Egyptologist Howard Carter found them in 1900. Senetney's body was never found. (Carter was later credited with discovering Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922.)

According to the study, the inclusion of Senetney in the Valley of the Kings, “a necropolis usually reserved for pharaohs and powerful nobility”, is indicative of “extraordinary privileges and high regard , which Senetney probably used at the pharaoh”.

“This work gives an idea of ​​the huge effort that the Egyptians went to in their funeral practice, and not only for the pharaohs, but also for other members of society,” said study co-author Nicole Boivin, head of the research group at the Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology. – But it also makes it clear that Senetney was a significant person, whose significance transcends the mere description of her as the nurse of the future pharaoh Amenhotep II”.

The two jars that once contained Sennetney's lungs and liver have been part of the Egyptian collection of the August Kestner Museum in Hannover, Germany, since 1935. They survived the destruction during World War II because they were stored in a salt mine. Two other jars that were not part of the study are held in other collections.

The contents have long since disappeared, but the researchers were able to scrape off the inside of the jars to examine the remains of the balsams, as well as what had seeped into the porous limestone of the jars.

The exact recipes used in mummification have long been debated as ancient Egyptian texts do not list the exact ingredients. The team began their research to identify balm ingredients in 2021 using a variety of highly advanced analytical methods. The balms in the two jars were slightly different from each other, which means that depending on which organ was preserved, different ingredients could be used.

The balms contained beeswax, vegetable oils, animal fats, natural bitumen and resins. Compounds such as coumarin and benzoic acid were also present. Coumarin, which has an aroma similar to vanilla, is found in pea plants and cinnamon. Benzoic acid is found in the resins and gums of trees and shrubs.

In a jar used to store Senetney lungs, researchers found fragrant larch resins and something that is either dammar from trees native to India and the South East Asia, or the resin of pistachio trees belonging to the cashew family.

“The presence of certain ingredients indicates that the Egyptians created far-reaching trade routes and networks. Remarkably, the presence of larch tree resin, which originates from the northern Mediterranean and Central Europe, and possibly dammar, a resin found exclusively in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia, highlights the vastness of Egyptian trade routes in the mid-2nd millennium BC. , says Barbara Huber.

Researchers are still working to confirm if dammar was one of the ingredients.

“If this is a dammar, then it has come a shockingly long way, and this gives a new insight into the ancient trade routes,” says Nicole Boivin. – Travel was extremely difficult, and significant sea expeditions were still relatively rare. It is unlikely that the Egyptians themselves went to these distant lands, most likely they were part of exchange networks that connected with other networks. But these were the early stages of the globalized world we live in today”.

According to the authors of the study, if dammar is confirmed to be an ingredient, it would also indicate that the Egyptians gained access to the resin for almost a millennium earlier than expected. Dammar has recently been identified as an embalming ingredient at Saqqara dating back to the first millennium BC.

New findings suggest that the relatively complex balsams used in the preservation of Senetne may have started a trend towards more complex balms used later.

After identifying the ingredients, the research team, together with French perfumer Carol Calvez and museum historian Sophia Collette Erich recreated the real scent of the balm.

According to Barbara Huber, the meticulous process took months and many iterations before they ended up with a historically accurate and memorable fragrance. “When I first encountered this fragrance, it was a profound and almost surreal experience,” she said. “After spending so much time immersed in research and analysis, finally feeling that tangible, aromatic connection to the ancient world was touching. It was like a faint echo from the past.”

According to her, the research team wanted to offer visitors to the museum a more complete immersion in the ancient world, including the element of smell, as well as making it more accessible to visually impaired visitors . “Scent of Eternal Life” will be part of an ancient Egyptian exhibition at the Danish Museum opening in October.

“The fragrance provides a unique, visceral connection to the past, evoking a kind of time travel that is intimate and evocative,” said Barbara Huber. – By re-introducing this ancient fragrance, we aim to bridge the gap between ”then" and “now”, allowing visitors to truly “breathe” a piece of antiquity".


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