Perfume has always been a status symbol often signifying a person’s status and wealth. However, perfume also played a big role when it came to the mummification process when preparing a body for burial in ancient Egypt.
The History of Scented Oils
Scented oils have been in use since as early as 10,000 BCE. They were often used to help with body odor as well as to soften the skin. Some of the most common scents used among Egyptians in these ancient times were thyme, lavender, peppermint, cedar, rose, and almond oil. So, they were used in both death and in life.
When a body was prepared for burial, all the internal organs were removed, and the body was then embalmed. The body was washed out using spices and palm wine, and this also helped to combat the odor. They would then cover the body with natron for forty days.
Once the natron was removed, the body would be wrinkled and very tough. Therefore, the Egyptians would then cover it with ox fat and cedar oil and then stuff it full of spices like cinnamon. The linens used around the body were also treated with different pleasant-smelling oils as well including myrrh, cassia, and camphor oil.
In addition to the preparation process for the body, ancient Egyptian Pharaohs would also be buried with jars of essential oils. Oils were highly revered and played a very significant role in ancient Egyptian society.
Essential oils were often used in ancient Egyptian times for cleanliness as well. It wasn’t something reserved just for the elite and wealthy either; it was a practice recognized by all classes. Body oil was applied daily to the skin to moisturize and protect the skin. Sometimes it was even given in place of wages to the lower class workers. Unpleasant smells were linked to impurity, while good smells implied a more sacred presence.
Oils are Invaluable
Perfumes and essential oils are definitely invaluable and play a big role in understanding ancient Egyptian times and their culture. While good smells were associated with holiness, today we link pleasant smells to status and wellness.
While cedar oil was almost always used during the burial process, scientists are still to this day researching ancient Egyptian culture to learn more about their processes and the other ways they utilized essential oils.
Meta: Essential oils were important to ancient Egyptian Pharaohs because they were a status symbol and were also used while preparing the body for burial.