You can now be transported back to ancient Egypt as scent of balm used for mummification is recreated

Mildred Europa Taylor September 05, 2023
Photo of Egyptian mummy. Source: Wikimedia Commons/Dada

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute have successfully recreated the scent of a balm used during the mummification of an Egyptian noblewoman who died more than 3,500 years ago and whose tomb was discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1900.

This fragrance, known as the “scent of eternity” or “the scent of life,” was a major component in the mummification of the noblewoman known as Senetnay, who was also a wet nurse with the title “Ornament of the King” in the Egyptian kingdom.

The researchers said the fragrance is based on beeswax, plant oils, and tree resins found within the balm used to preserve Senetnay. The scientists recreated the scent or fragrance by analyzing balm residue found in two canopic jars used during the mummification of Senetnay after they were excavated from a tomb by Carter in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt in 1900.

The team further used advanced scientific procedures such as chromatography to recreate the ancient fragrance. Lead researcher Barbara Huber said, “The embalming ingredients found in Senetnay’s balms are among the most elaborate and diverse ever identified from this period, revealing the meticulous care and sophistication with which the balms were created.”

Professor Nicole Boivin, senior researcher on the project, added that the ingredients in the balms make it clear that the ancient Egyptians were sourcing materials from beyond their realm from an early date.

The recreated scent will soon be unveiled at Denmark’s Moesgaard Museum, and Huber hopes that it will provide an “immersive, multisensory experience” to visitors. A study of the findings was published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.

Ancient Egypt has often been the main reference point when interpreting the past and experience of Africa. Egyptian civilization has been identified as the cradle of all human civilization celebrated for its languages, governance structure, and long history of wealth, education and powerful Pharaohs, and of course mummification — preserving a body for the afterlife — largely developed by ancient Egyptians.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: September 5, 2023

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