Fragrances have been in use since ancient times for many reasons. The ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all used perfumes to cover up the smell of sweat and the smell of animals and drains as well as for seduction purposes.

In addition, perfume and incense were used in holy rituals, for worshipping the Gods and burying the dead. It was also thought to cure lung and skin ailments and was a sign of royalty or high class as well as athleticism. The ancient Egyptians used oils in the mummification process and the mummies were anointed with perfume in order to please the Gods.

Perfume making was something of an industry in ancient times, when, of course fragrances were made by hand and contained all natural ingredients.

The walls of some Egyptian tombs show the ancient equivalent of a production line as one person pours ingredients from a jar, while others are extracting the kernels of fruit and still others crush the fruit and heat it into a sort of mash. The illustrations also show that there were as many supervisors and managers as there were workers!

This wet mash would then have its essence squeezed out by means of twisting and squeezing it in some sort of fabric before it was added to oil or wine.

Some perfumes used dry ingredients such as herbs and spices which were crushed and sifted to fine powders before being mixed with the carrier.

Oil was used as the carrier medium and was mixed with the scents of the day; myrhh, frankincense, cedar and cypress as well as resins and flowers. Even scents derived from the glands of animals such as the civet cat and musk deer were used.

In modern times, alcohol is used as the carrier for essential oils which are still derived mainly from plants including spices and flowers. Other ingredients include colouring, fixatives and preservatives. The theory behind the use of alcohol is that it evaporates more quickly than oil and thus the scent diffuses more quickly making it less subtle than it was in ancient times.
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