The Making of Lotus Perfume

Limestone slab with relief depicting women pressing lotus flowers, for the making of perfume or narcotics. The women at center twist a sack in which the lotus flowers are collected, the juice of which collects in the container below.

The Ancient Egyptians loved beautiful fragrances. They associated them with the gods and recognized their positive effect on health and well being. 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 making of lotus perfumes. Egyptian Museum of Turin. Cat. 1673
The making of lotus perfumes. Egyptian Museum of Turin. Cat. 1673

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 or Nefertum, was also a god of healing who was said to have eased the suffering of the aging sun god Re with a bouquet of sacred lotus. He was, in fact, first and foremost, the young god of the lotus bud that emerged from the primordial waters, according to the Egyptian myth, and from which the sun was born.

Late Period, ca. 664-332 BC. Now in the Egyptian Museum of Turin. Cat. 1673

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