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From the history of aromatic plants: Jasmine in ancient Egypt

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Arabian jasmin (Jasminum sambac ‘Maid of Orleans’) from Sayada, Tunisia.  Credits to Habib M’henni / Wikimedia Commons. Accessed on September 14th 2019    (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arabian_jasmin,_Tunisia_2010.jpg)

Jasmine in ancient Egypt

Jasmine plants were brought in abundant quantities to Egypt during the Roman period, as import from the eastern provinces (El-Shimy 2003). Its use seemed to be copied from the Persians. It is even implied in surviving texts that both the jasmine fragrance and its recipe were an import from the East (Dioscorides Pedanius, Osbaldeston, and Wood 2000).

There is single reference to jasmine (a single dried flower of jasmine sambac) found in cachette of royal mummies from 21st Dynasty at Deir el-Bahari. The identification was published in Nature in 1884 by Schweinfurth (Schweinfurth 1884; Vartavan and Arakelyan 2010).

The flower was found in the package of botanical material delivered to Natural History Museum of Milan. Most of the flower wreaths from this site ended in the storage at the Egyptian Museum in the Cairo suburb of Boulak, but I was unable to determine fate of this material. Mummies from this hideout were researched in the early 20th century and a reprint of 1912 report is available (Smith 2000).

Bibliography:

Dioscorides Pedanius, of Anazarbos., Tess Anne. Osbaldeston, and Robert P. Wood. 2000. De Materia Medica : Being an Herbal with Many Other Medicinal Materials : Written in Greek in the First Century of the Common Era : A New Indexed Version in Modern English. Johannesburg: IBIDIS. https://www.worldcat.org/title/dioscorides-de-materia-medica-being-an-herbal-with-many-other-medicinal-materials/oclc/59267898&referer=brief_results.

El-Shimy, Mohamed. 2003. “Preparation and Use of Perfumes and Perfumed Substances in Ancient Egypt.” In Molecular and Structural Archaeology: Cosmetic and Therapeutic Chemicals, edited by Georges Tsoucaris and Janusz Lipkowski, 29–50. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.

Schweinfurth, G. 1884. “Further Discoveries in the Flora of Ancient Egypt 1.” Nature 29 (744): 312–15. https://doi.org/10.1038/029312b0.

Smith, Grafton Elliot. 2000. The Royal Mummies. Duckworth.

Vartavan, Christian de, and Arminée Arakelyan. 2010. Codex of Ancient Egyptian Plant Remains = Codex Des Restes Végétaux de l’Égypte Ancienne.  SAIS; 2nd Revised & Enlarged edition (December 2010).


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