Using samples taken from ancient remains, a group of scientists has recreated the scent of balms used by ancient Egyptians to mummify a noblewoman over 3,500 years old.
Dubbing the concoction “the scent of eternity,” the German-led team worked with a French perfumer to recreate the smell, which visitors to the Moesgaard Museum in Denmark will able to take a whiff of.
The project was detailed in a new paper the scientists published in the journal Scientific Reports, in which they analyzed balm specimens taken from jars containing the mummified lungs and liver of Senetnay, a wet nurse to the future Pharaoh Amenhotep II who lived around 1450 BCE.
According to their findings, the balms were made up of beeswax, plant oil, fats, bitumen, pine resins, a balsamic substance, and either dammar or resin from a Pistacia tree. The researchers said these substances attested to the woman’s high social status and were shown to be effective for long-term preservation.
“They also noted the balms were not identical, with the one scraped from the canopic jar holding Senetnay’s lungs including an aromatic resin not found in the other, lending support to the theory that the ancient Egyptians had organ-specific mummification ointments.”
“Senetnay’s mummification balm stands out as one of the most intricate and complex balms from that era,” Barbara Huber of the Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology, one of the authors, told the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
“For instance, certain resins, like the larch tree resin, likely came from the northern Mediterranean and central Europe,” she continued. “One other substance was narrowed down to either a resin called dammar — exclusive to south-east Asian tropical forests — or Pistacia tree resin.”
“In case it was dammar, this would highlight the extensive trade networks of the Egyptians during the mid-second millennium BCE, bringing in ingredients from afar.”