Perfume in Ancient Egypt

Fragrance of the Gods

In ancient Egypt, incense was revered as the “Fragrance of the Gods.” Making incense implied, in some unfathomable manner, constructing the gods’ bodies and interacting with them.

Do you know that one of the oldest perfume compositions ever documented in history was made by the earliest perfumers, the Egyptian priests? They utilised fragrant resins like frankincense, myrrh, and benzoin to both smell the temple and make a perfumed mixture used as sacrifices and ceremonial offerings. Additionally, these resins were used by the Egyptians as a kind of olfactory clock, with the odours signifying the passage of time. In fact, the priests burned three separate smells in the temple throughout the day. Myrrh during the day, frankincense in the morning, and kyphi in the evening.

Perfume in Ancient Egypt

Kyphi was a unique incense made from a blend of pricey resins that were brought from other nations, honey, spices, roots, and wine. Making kyphi required careful attention to detail, took up to six months, and involved the use of spells and magic formulas. In ancient Egypt, the connection between the roots of scent and the divine demonstrated their unbreakable tie.


The Ancient Egyptians loved beautiful fragrances. They associated them with the gods and recognised their positive effect on health and well being.

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Perfume in Ancient Egypt

The significance of fragrance in Egyptian culture

In Egyptian culture, the usage of fragrances like perfume and incense was quite widespread. They were used for hedonistic and medicinal purposes in addition to religious rites.
In actuality, Egyptians scented their body and hair.
Mendesian, which included myrrh, cassia, and other gums and resins soaked in oil, Susinum, a scent based on lily, myrrh, and cinnamon, and Cyprinum, a scent based on henna and southernwood with a dash of cardamom and cinnamon, were the most costly fragrances.

Perfume in Ancient Egypt

Egyptian fragrances weren’t like those available today. Even though Cleopatre likely produced the first alembic prototype, the distillation process had not yet been established, therefore they developed the “enfleurage” technique to extract essential oils. As a result, this procedure allowed for the mixing of oils or fats with scent.
For instance, some depictions feature ladies with wax cones perched on their heads. The heat dissolved the wax and perfume that made up the cone, releasing the scent into the atmosphere.


Egypt was the world leader in the creation of perfume and was closely associated with the international perfume trade.

Perfume in Ancient Egypt

The mythology of raw materials and resins

The pantheon of Gods is a significant fact that demonstrates the significance of scent in ancient Egypt. Egyptians really associated a number of divinities with scent and perfume.
The Egyptians revered a number of deities associated with smell, such as Nefertum, the goddess of the lotus flower, Merehet, the goddess of unguents, and Chesmou, the god of perfume manufacture.
Nefertum was typically shown as a handsome young guy with blue lotus blossoms around him. A kind of lotus flower called a water lily opens in the morning and closes at night, signifying rebirth and renewal. These flowers were used in the mummification process because the dead person’s aroma travelled with him to the “other side” for these reasons.


Egyptians believed that all beautiful scents originated from the bodies of the gods.

Valley of the Queens

Furthermore, according to the Egyptians, resinous substances like myrrh and frankincense were the resinous “tears” and “sweat” of the gods, which emerged from the trees. For instance, they thought that the best myrrh came from Re’s eye.
The Eye of Horus was also associated by the Egyptians with incense, and more particularly, with the gummy fluids of labdanum incense. They welcomed the goats that wandered through the gum-cistus areas because they saw them as divine manifestations.

Colorful bas-reliefs on the wall of Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut

Obtaining raw materials trade, exploration, and stock

Not all of the raw ingredients used in the odourous daily routine were grown in Egypt. In reality, a strong commerce and storage infrastructure was required because of the need for these materials. Frankincense was brought in from abroad, notably from the Punt region. Drawings on the Deir el-Bahri temple, Hatshepsut’s funeral temple, depict one journey for incense and myrrh.
Hatshepsut was Egypt’s female pharaoh. In 1478 BC, she ascended to the Egyptian throne. She was in charge of organising and sponsoring an expedition to Punt.
Even today, historians, academics, archaeologists, and other experts disagree on the precise location of the Land of Punt. Over the years, it has been referred to as a region of Somalia or Arabia, although some academics place Punt’s homeland in either Eritrea or east Africa.
Five large ships and at least 200 sailors were part of the operation. The expedition’s was enormous. With little success, they attempted to grow about 30 live myrrh trees to begin their own myrrh production. However, they also brought back rare metals, exotic creatures like giraffes, and several fragrant herbs and spices. Today’s warehouse was formerly the temples. The priesthood maintained and stored all of these priceless raw resources.

Perfume in Ancient Egypt

Produce your own kyphi

The Greek translation of the Egyptian term Kapet, which became the name Kyphi, is really written in Latin.
Kyphi was used for ceremonial rituals in ancient Egypt, and it was often burned in temples at dusk. You were able to speak with God and unlock the door to your imagination thanks to the smoke and scent of the encens. It was related to dreams and visions.
This incense was created from a complex mixture of ingredients, including raisins, honey, and myrrh. The recipe is written on the wall of the Edfu temple, which is halfway between Luxor and Aswan.
Kyphi was used as chewable gum in addition to being an incense and a type of medicinal remedy.

The ingredients were: –

Raisins -wine -honey -frankincense -myrrh -mastic -pine resin -sweet flag -aspalathos -camel grass -mint -cyperus -juniper berries -pine kernels -pekers -cinnamon

Papyrus Ebers

Honey -frankincense -mastic -sweet flag -pine kernels -cyperus grass -camel grass -inektun -cinnamon

Papyrus Harris

Raisins -Wine -Honey -Mastic -Pine Resin -Camel Grass -Mint -Sweet Flag -Cinnamon


With terebinth resin, saffron, raisins, cinnamon, wine, myrrh, honey, and other components, Kyphi is the most well-known.

What did ancient Egyptian perfume smell like?

In order to create the old scents, ingredients like cardamom, olive oil, and cinnamon were used. These perfumes were often considerably heavier and stickier than the stuff we spray on today. The result was that the perfumes gave out strong, spicy, barely musky aromas that tended to stay longer than those of more recent fragrances.

Did the Egyptians invent perfume?

We have been seduced and enchanted by fragrance for ages. At least 5,000 years have passed since the Ancient Egyptians first produced perfume, according to hieroglyphics found in Egyptian tombs as early as 3,000 BC. Egyptian priests, who were the earliest perfumers, utilised fragrant resins to enhance the scent of sacrificed animals.

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