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Scientists recreate Cleopatra’s PERFUME using 2,000 year-old-recipe

A perfume which may have been worn by the famous Ancient Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra has been recreated by scientists. 

A decade-long dig near Cairo unearthed the recipe and its recreation is a thick and sticky concoction made from myrrh, cardamom, olive oil and cinnamon.

Much thicker than today’s perfumes – it has a consistency similar to olive oil – the scent is far stronger than modern equivalents and is said to linger for much longer on the body. 

‘What a thrill it is to smell a perfume that no one has smelt for 2,000 years and one which Cleopatra might have worn,’ Professor Littman, one of the academics involved with the project, said of the undertaking. 


Residue of the contents inside an amphora, a sleek ancient Greek or Roman jar with two handles and a narrow neck, found at the site was conducted by two University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa professors.

They recreated Cleopatra’s ancient perfume for display in a National Geographic exhibit from the finds at Tell-el Timai in Egypt.

The modern-day region of the African nation was first called Thmuis and founded around 6,500 years ago.

It was known for producing two types of perfume – Mendesian and Metopian. 

The project is a decade-long excavation led by Professor Robert Littman and adjunct professor Jay Silverstein. 

‘This was the Chanel No. 5 of ancient Egypt,’ he told Atlas Obscura. 

‘It was the most prized perfume of the ancient world.’ 

A vast complex of third century BCE kilns was discovered at the Egyptian site and chemical analysis found it to be an ancient perfumery. 

They used imported clays to manufacture perfume bottles and, in 2012, the possible house of its owner was discovered. 

A host of silver and gold jewellery was found near the kilns, indicating the presence of monetary exchange for the scents.    

Experts on ancient Egyptian perfume were brought in to recreate the perfume based on formulas in ancient Greek texts. 

The perfume is now on display at the National Geographic Museum exhibit in Washington, D.C.

‘I find it very pleasant, though it probably lingers a little longer than modern perfume,’ Professor Littman added. 

‘Ancient perfumes were much thicker than what we use now, almost like an olive oil consistency.’ 

Although the perfume has been accurately recreated, it is hard to say for sure what perfume Cleopatra would have worn. 

Mandy Aftel, a perfumer in Berkeley, California, believes the Egyptian ruler would likely have had her own unique scent made and bottled for her.   

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