Step into the role of an ancient Egyptian temple perfumer and learn how how to make sacred fragrances based on recipes with Egyptologist Dora Goldsmith.
Your ONLINE course instructor is the world’s leading expert on the olfactory culture of ancient Egyptian society. She has reconstructed a multitude of ancient Egyptian perfumes with her text-based experimental approach, which has earned her worldwide recognition. Her work has been featured in Science News, National Geographic, DER SPIEGEL, El Pais, and BBC. For more about Dora, see below.
In the Egyptian perfume series, we will familiarize ourselves with the most iconic perfumes from ancient Egypt. The classes have an analytical and experimental approach: each one will be dedicated to the text analysis of perfume recipes, followed by experimental archaeology.
Egyptologist Dora Goldsmith will walk you through each perfume recipe, and explain how she followed the text step-by-step to reconstruct the fragrance. The goal of the series is to bring you closer to ancient Egyptian culture through the process of text analysis and experimentation.
The classes will be concluded by remarks from natural perfumer expert and educator Roxana Villa, where she will compare the ancient Egyptian methods of perfumery with modern methods of natural perfumery.
After each class, Dora and Roxana will be available for a one-hour-long discussion and Q&A.
Each class offers live instruction with handouts with a period of time reserved for Q&A.
Besides the live instruction and handouts, Dora has meticulously assembled kits containing plant materials from the authentic locations we will be studying. The kits are NOT required but are a rare treat to indulge your knowledge.
Find a description of each class in this series below, followed by a link to the page describing the kits with images.
*The workshops take place online, LIVE on Sundays at 6pm Berlin, Germany time / 10am Santa Fe, NM, US time, use the time zone converter here to calculate the time in your city.
➵ KYPHI (kAp, kAp.t)
kAp.t or kAp.t in Egyptian or kyphi in Greek is a solid ancient Egyptian perfume. It is one of the first documented perfume recipes in the world, and one of the few surviving perfume recipes from ancient Egypt. Kyphi is unique in ancient Egyptian perfumery because it is the only perfume that is documented both in the temples and in everyday life, thus allowing for a comparison of its sacred and mundane use. In the temples, the kyphi perfume mixture was censed daily in the worship of the gods to clean and perfume the air. As the temple was regarded as a pure and immaculate divine cosmos, kyphi played an essential role in reflecting the perfect olfactory world of the gods. The exudation of kyphi in private homes served to purify and scent the air, clean and perfume clothing, and it was even used as a chewing gum. As an olfactory adornment, kyphi served to enhance one’s appearance and to make them more attractive.
We will start the workshop by discussing all ancient Egyptian sources mentioning kyphi. We will investigate how the use and cultural significance of kyphi changed throughout Egyptian history from the Old Kingdom until the Ptolemaic Period. Then we will look at all the ingredients of the recipe in detail and discuss their botanical identifications. After we have familiarized ourselves with each ingredient, we will read the recipe to analyze each step of the perfume-making process. After we have understood all the steps of the recipe, Dora will teach you ways of recreating kyphi by yourself.
➵ MEDJET (mD.t) Perfume
mD.t (pronounced likely “medjet” or “madjet”) means “ointment” or “unguent” and it was one of the ten sacred perfumes used in the temples of Egypt to anoint the gods and in the process of mummification to preserve the dead.
The recipe of medjet is inscribed on the wall of the perfume laboratory of the temple of Edfu dated to the Ptolemaic Period. The base of medjet is oxen fat, also known as beef tallow, which is cooked in wine and strongly scented with resins, barks, roots and berries. The very end of the recipe instructs the perfumer to dye the product red with a mysterious plant called ns.tyw (“nestiu”).
In this class, we will start the class by looking at texts discussing the medjet perfume, including temple inscriptions and funerary documents. We will investigate how the usage and religious significance of medjet changed throughout Egyptian history from the Old Kingdom until the Ptolemaic Period. Then we will look at all ingredients of the recipe in detail and discuss their botanical identifications. After we have familiarized ourselves with each ingredient, we will read the recipe to analyze each step of the perfume-making process. We will also look at the structure of the text and its genre as a recipe. How does medjet differ from all other ancient Egyptian perfume recipes? After we have understood all the steps of the recipe, Dora will teach you ways of recreating medjet by yourself.
➵ HEKENU (Hkn.w) Perfume
Hkn.w (pronounced likely “hekenu”), meaning “joy” in Egyptian, was one of the seven sacred perfumes used in the temples of Egypt to anoint the gods and in the process of mummification to preserve the dead. Its recipe is preserved on the walls of the Ptolemaic temple of Edfu. However, its existence can be traced back to as early as the 4th Dynasty, making it one of the earliest and most iconic fragrances of ancient Egyptian culture. The hekenu recipe is long, complicated and intriguing. The attention to detail, the processing of the materials, the patience to make it (one year!), and the specification of the equipment and perfumery personnel involved in the manufacture are fascinating.
This class will be dedicated to reading and understanding the recipe through a detailed text analysis. We will investigate every step in the intricate manufacture of hekenu and the possible goal the ancient Egyptian perfumers tried to achieve with it. The class will be concluded by instructions of how you can replicate the sacred hekenu fragrance.
➵ HATHOR'S PERFUME COCKTAILS
Hathor was the patron goddess of perfume, beer, wine, and intoxication. Once a year, a festival was celebrated in her name, which combined perfumery and cocktail-making. In this class, we will have a thorough look at a composition preserved in many copies and versions about perfumed drinks sacred to the goddess. The text is disguised as a hymn, however, when taken a closer look, one realizes that it actually divulges two recipes. One of them is a recipe for a scented, beer-based drink to be consumed by the entire population during the Festival of Drunkenness dedicated to Hathor.
This fragrant cocktail is labelled mnw (likely pronounced “menu”) in Egyptian. A thorough investigation of the text reveals that there is a second recipe hiding behind the hymn: a sacred, wine-based perfume cocktail representing the divine character of Hathor, which is not to be consumed by people. This divine cocktail contains valuable substances sacred to the goddess. Dora will walk you through this mysterious and exciting text and teach you how to recreate both fragrant drinks.
➵ MENDESIAN PERFUME, May 28, 2023
The Mendesian was the olfactory emblem of ancient Egypt in late antiquity, at the time of Cleopatra, hence its nickname, “the Egyptian”. The perfume recipe did not survive in the Egyptian sources, however, numerous classical writers praise its scent, calling it luxurious and expensive.
The Mendesian has a great significance in the history of perfumery. It was not only a perfume – it was a piece of culture in a bottle. The Mendesian was a piece of Egypt. Even after thousands of years, the perfume that once captivated the ancient world doesn’t cease to amaze us and finds its relevance in the modern world.
The reconstruction of the perfume was exhibited at the National Geographic Museum, Washington D.C. between March 1, 2019 and September 15, 2019 in the framework of the exhibition “Queens of Egypt”. The exhibited perfume reproduction has created worldwide media interest as “the perfume of Cleopatra”.
In this class, Dora will demonstrate how she traced back the ingredients of the renowned Mendesian perfume to earlier ancient Egyptian sources. She will discuss the botanical identifications and the significance of each ingredient for the ancient Egyptian culture. She will also show you how she managed to identify the ancient Egyptian equivalent of the Mendesian in the Egyptian written record.
As a part of the class, she will demonstrate how she replicated the Mendesian perfume and walk you through the process.
➵ BONUS CLASS -> ANCIENT EGYPTIAN MAKE-UP, June 4, 2023
Topics of discussion for this dedicated class on make-up in ancient Egypt will include: all the raw materials of make-up, their place of origin, processing and application. We will cover all sources providing us with information on make-up in ancient Egypt: written, archaeological and art-historical evidence. We will analyze the cultural significance of make-up in ancient Egypt and answer the following questions: When was make-up applied? What was considered a basic make-up look? Did make-up or the quality of make-up change depending on one’s social status? Why was make-up considered a medical remedy? What kind of make-up was expected to be worn upon entering the netherworld? How did everyday make-up differ from make-up worn in afterlife? The last section of the class will be dedicated to experimental archaeology: Dora will teach you how to recreate some iconic ancient Egyptian looks with authentic make-up materials.
➵ Certification: Workshop Requirements
To receive a Certificate of Completion you must attend the complete series.
Since each workshop will be live and NOT recorded, it is important to make a commitment to attending.
-> Other details
KITS: A limited number of kits will be prepared by Dora and are available, but NOT required, find the class kits here.
IMPORTANT: Each of these classes are LIVE and not recorded, there are no refunds if you are not able to attend one or all of the classes.
This workshop series and individual classes are copyrighted, no portion may be recorded or duplicated without written permission from Dora Goldsmith
ABOUT OUR INSTRUCTOR: DORA GOLDSMITH
Dora Goldsmith is an Egyptologist whose research focuses on the sense of smell in ancient Egypt. Based on the written sources, Dora investigates the ancient Egyptians' perception of the world through the sense of smell and recreates their smellscape. Her published works include the concept of stench in ancient Egypt (2019), the scents of mummification (2019) and the smellscape of ancient Egyptian cities (2020). Dora has presented lectures and workshops around the world accompanied by her scent reconstructions, where the long-lost world of the ancient Egyptians comes back to life through the nose. Two of her scent reconstructions, the Mendesian and the scent of mummification, have been exhibited in museums around the world.
Kit, ingredient and Hathor cocktail photos ©Copyright Dora Goldsmith