Making of Lily Perfume

Relief depicting women squeezing oil from lily flowers in a press for use in perfume. Fragment from a decoration of a tomb.

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

Making of Lily Perfume
Making of Lily Perfume

Perfumes were generally applied as oil-based salves, and there are numerous recipes and depictions of the preparation of perfume in temples all over Egypt.

The most highly prized perfumes of the ancient world came from Egypt. The most popular were Susinum (a perfume based on lily, myrrh, cinnamon), Cyprinum (based upon henna, cardamom, cinnamon, myrrh and southernwood) and Mendesian (myrrh and cassia with assorted gums and resins). 

The god of perfume, Nefertem, was also a god of healing who was said to have eased the suffering of the aging sun god Ra with a bouquet of sacred lotus. The most widely known is Kyphi, made with terebinth resin, saffron, raisins, cinnamon, wine, myrrh, honey and other ingredients. The recipes remained secret, because this scent was used to honor the gods.

Perfume has been a cherished luxury product for thousands of years and ancient Egypt was no exception. Perfumes had many uses. Initially, the rarity of perfume made it a product for the gods: aromatic powders were burnt to honor the gods and to curry favor.

Limestone, 4th century BC. Now in the Louvre. E 11162