Where Did Perfume Originate?

Where Did Perfume Originate?
Where Did Perfume Originate? (Image: www.istockphoto.com)

Most perfume connoisseurs are unaware of a peculiar fact: Its origin is rooted in ancient religious rituals. Despite the early Egyptians' use of perfumes during religious ceremonies, throughout history people have created methods using flower petals, aromatic herbs and oils to adorn their bodies with signature scents and fragrance.


The ancient Egyptians used perfume for cleansing rituals and during religious rites and ceremonies. Tapputti, a Mesopotamian chemist, created perfume using flowers and oil in 2000 B.C. In ancient times, rose, peppermint, almond, coriander, bergamot, frankincense and myrrh were scents used to create incense and perfumed oil. Glass bottles were used in early Egypt to store perfume. In the 20th century, famous perfumes included: Coco Chanel's, "Chanel No.5," created in 1921, and Jean Patou's "Joy," created in 1935.


Perfume making can be traced to Mesopotamia and Egypt. According to Wikipedia, the word perfume originates from the Latin word "per fumum," which means through smoke. Ancient perfume formulations were originally burned as incense, as well as applied to the skin. Other early civilizations used perfumes for rituals and personal use including the: ancient Arabs, Persians, Chinese, Greeks and Romans.

Time Frame

Perfume was widely used in Islamic countries, Greece and Rome until the fall of the Roman Empire. In the 9th century, Alkindus created a book of perfumes in Arabic that detailed over 100 different methods for perfume making. The spread of Christianity created a decrease in the use of perfumes until international trade routes brought perfume to other countries in the 12th century. In the 1600s, wealthy members of the royal French court applied perfume to their fans and gloves. Due to advances in chemistry, the 19th century boasts an expansion of perfume as synthetic scents and the development of perfume houses in Europe.


The first modern perfume was created in 1370 for Queen Elizabeth of Hungary. It was the first formulation to combine an alcohol solution with scented oils. Perfume was widely used in France in the late 1600s and was applied to clothing and furniture during the reign of Louis XV. Noted perfume production facilities were established in Grasse, Paris and London in the 18th century.


Egyptian women applied perfumed ointments and creams to their skin infused with aromatic herbs. These women used perfume to adorn their bodies with scent before lovemaking, or for toiletries and cosmetic purposes. Wealthy aristocrats used perfume in France to cover their lack of daily bathing rituals with strong scents. A Persian chemist named Avicenna created a distillation process to create rose water. Prior to his discovery, early perfumes were created by mixing oil and petals or crushed herbs to create a scent.

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