RESEARCHERS at the University of Cordoba have managed to analyse, for the first time, a 2,000 years old Roman perfume and determine its fragrance and chemical composition.

Two thousand years ago, in the Roman city of Carmo, today’s Carmona, in the province of Sevilla, someone placed an ointment in a funerary urn.

Twenty centuries later, the FQM346 research team at the University of Cordoba, led by Professor of Organic Chemistry Jose Rafael Ruiz Arrebola, in collaboration with the City Council of Carmona, has been able to chemically describe the actual components of that ointment, believed to be a perfume from the 1st century AD, and prove that part of the Roman Empire smelled of patchouli, a fragrant plant native to Asia.

Until now knowledge of these substances and fragrances was based only on written and indirect sources, but thanks to this exhaustive research and the fact that residue of the perfume had been preserved solidified inside a perfectly sealed vessel carved in quartz, the world can once again ‘smell’ the bygone Roman Empire.

The result of this study has been published by the Swiss scientific journal Heritage in an article in which Ruiz Arrebola, the municipal archaeologist of Carmona, Juan Manuel Román, and the UCO researchers Daniel Cosano and Fernando Lafont narrate the whole technical and scientific process used.


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