We Now Know What Ancient Rome Smelled Like Thanks to 2,000-Year-Old Discovery

Scent possesses a remarkable ability to transport you through time. Just one whiff of your favorite perfume from your high school days can instantly transport you back to the very classroom you once occupied.

However, imagine a new breakthrough that can take you even further back in time, all the way to Ancient Rome.

In an incredible discovery, researchers have managed to discover the fragrance of ancient Rome by opening a sealed vial of Roman perfume believed to date back to the time of Christ. Astonishingly, it seems that the scent prevailing in the air 2,000 years ago bore a striking resemblance to that of patchouli oil.

From Study Finds


The vial was kept perfectly sealed with a dolomite stopper, a form of carbon, and tightly covered with bitumen. This contributed to the “extraordinary” preservation of the content in the tiny glass container. This container was discovered in 2019 during an archaeological excavation in a mausoleum unearthed during a home construction project on Calle Sevillat. The site is located in Carmo, known today as Carmona, near Seville in Spain. The ointment inside was preserved and solidified within a quartz vessel that remained impeccably sealed.

The tomb appeared to be a communal burial site, likely belonging to a wealthy family. Alongside numerous items associated with burial rituals, six cinerary urns were found, containing the remains of three men and three women. Within one of the glass urns, which held the cremated skeletal remains of a woman between 30 and 40 years-old, a cloth bag was found. The bag contained three amber beads and a small quartz flask carved into the shape of an amphora, holding the ointment.

The truly extraordinary facet of this discovery was the perfectly sealed nature of the container and the preservation of the solid perfume residues inside, which allowed for a detailed study of its composition.

Isn't it absolutely fascinating?

Discovering the scents that were fashionable during ancient times, particularly among the affluent Ancient Romans, is truly captivating. It offers us a glimpse into their lavish world and adds another layer of intrigue to their history.

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