March 25, 2009

scent of a pharaoh

Scientists have set out to recreate the perfume worn by Hatshepsut, one of the few female Pharaohs.

Hatshepsut stepped in as one of ancient Egypt’s rare female leaders when her half-brother and husband, Pharaoh Thutmose II, died without an adult male heir. She was meant to rule as a co-regent only until her stepson Thutmose III matured, but she effectively took the reins and was recognized as the pharaoh by the royal court and religious officials until her death in 1457 B.C., Egyptologists say.

“Incense was extremely valuable in ancient Egypt and was used only in temples and for living gods (such as the king),” said Michael Höveler-Müller, curator of the Bonn University Egyptian Museum.

It is this incense that researchers suspect they have found in a filigree container bearing the queen’s name. Using powerful X-rays, the remains of a dried-out fluid were discovered at the bottom of the flacon. Pharmacologists will now analyze the residue and break it into its constituents, in the hopes of putting the scent back together, 3,500 years after Hatshepsut last wore it.