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Author Topic: Ancient perfume analyzed  (Read 580 times)

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Offline Enodia

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Ancient perfume analyzed
« on: May 26, 2023, 10:16:33 pm »
A perfume bottle made of quartz has been found intact and still sealed(!), allowing scientists to analyze its ingredients...

https://arkeonews.net/researchers-identified-for-the-first-time-the-composition-of-a-roman-perfume-more-than-2000-years-old/

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Offline Serendipity

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Re: Ancient perfume analyzed
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2023, 03:22:38 am »
''According to the results of chemical analyses carried out by the University of Cordoba, Rome smelled of patchouli, an essential oil obtained from a plant of Indian origin, Pogostemon cablin, widely used in modern perfumery, and whose use in Roman times was not known.''

Patchouli has a dark, musky-earthy woodsy aroma, reminiscent of wet soil, that is usually associated with flowers and spice. It's best known for being the defining hippy scent-of-choice of the American counterculture movement in the 60's and 70's. Patchouli is a unisex fragrance that leans towards the masculine, but for women with intense personalities who enjoy loud and deeper woody notes. It's also a natural insect repellant.

Offline Lech Stępniewski

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Re: Ancient perfume analyzed
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2023, 06:05:52 am »
Rome smelled of patchouli

But how do scholars know that exactly this perfume was widely used? Maybe it was used only by a few. Perhaps not all Americans in the 60's and 70's smelled like a hippie.
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Offline Serendipity

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Re: Ancient perfume analyzed
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2023, 09:20:45 am »
Rome smelled of patchouli

But how do scholars know that exactly this perfume was widely used? Maybe it was used only by a few. Perhaps not all Americans in the 60's and 70's smelled like a hippie.

That's a very good critique of the muddled conclusion the scholar draws from his research. We can't extrapolate from an isolated archeological find that the exotic Indian fragrance patchouli was the sole Roman scent-of-choice just as we can't presume all Americans preferred patchouli in the 60's and 70's. I've just read an interesting article on the topic entitled "Perfume in Ancient Rome" by Stefania Sanna which is full of historical anecdotes: https://www.officinadelleessenze.com/en/perfume-in-ancient-rome/.

Woman pouring perfume into a flask in Villa Farnesina, Rome (fresco)

Offline BiancasDad

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Re: Ancient perfume analyzed
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2023, 11:56:06 am »
It makes sense to me that they would find patchouli oil in the jar.

I started making organic soap for my family about 10 years ago and it's well-known in the soap-making world that you need to have a "base" essential oil as part of your scent mix. Patchouli is considered a base oil and acts as an "anchor" for the other scents in the mix.

For example, I make a batch of Patchouli/Lemongrass soap. Without the Patchouli essential oil in the mix, the Lemongrass scent would disappear quickly.


Offline Lech Stępniewski

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Re: Ancient perfume analyzed
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2023, 12:13:10 pm »
Without the Patchouli essential oil in the mix, the Lemongrass scent would disappear quickly.

Do you think that it is possible that only base of the original perfume survived?
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Re: Ancient perfume analyzed
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2023, 04:04:51 pm »
"With respect to the perfume, two components have been identified: a base or binder, which allowed for the preservation of the aromas, and the essence itself, these findings according with descriptions by none other than Pliny the Elder. In this case, the base was a vegetable oil; possibly, according to some indications reflected in the analysis, olive oil, although this point could not be confirmed with certainty."

Written sources describing ancient perfume making are vague at best, though some writers such as the Greek Peripatetic philosopher Theophrastus (c.371-287 BCE) in his treatise De Odoribus (On Odours) and the Roman naturalist author Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) in his encyclopaedic Naturalis Historia (Natural History) include lists of ingredients for perfumes, as well as some discussion of techniques and tools.

Wall Fragment with Cupids and Psyche Making Perfume, AD 75–100, Roman. Plaster and pigment, 14 15/16 x 22 1/16 in. Getty Museum, 72.AG.81


Offline BiancasDad

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Re: Ancient perfume analyzed
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2023, 04:32:20 pm »
Without the Patchouli essential oil in the mix, the Lemongrass scent would disappear quickly.

Do you think that it is possible that only base of the original perfume survived?
I don't know enough about the science behind this question. Unlike perfume, soap goes through saponification so it may have a different effect on what trace elements would be left behind.

I do know that if I made a bar of soap with just Lemongrass oil without a base oil to anchor the scent, in 3-6 months the bar of soap would have no smell at all. Amazing considering how potent Lemongrass is when you smell it.

I have bars made 5 years ago with Patchouli and Lemongrass that still retain the Lemongrass smell making the ancient people all the more impressive to me.


 

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