3,500-Year-Old Ancient Egyptian Mummification Balm Aroma Recreated

The aroma of a balm used during the mummification of an Egyptian noblewoman who died more than 3,500 years ago and whose tomb was found by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1900 has been successfully replicated by researchers at the Max Planck Institute.

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

The smell is based on beeswax, plant oils, and tree resins contained in the balm used to preserve Senetnay, according to the researchers. The perfume or fragrance was replicated by analyzing balm residue found in two canopic jars used during Senetnay’s mummification after they were recovered from a tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings by Carter 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.”

The contents in the balms, according to Professor Nicole Boivin, senior researcher on the project, show that the ancient Egyptians were receiving resources from beyond their realm from an early date.

Huber thinks that the replicated aroma will present visitors with a “immersive, multisensory experience” at Denmark’s Moesgaard Museum. The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports on Thursday.

When interpreting Africa’s past and experience, Ancient Egypt has frequently served as the primary reference point. 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, as well as mummification, which was largely developed by ancient Egyptians.

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