They find in Pompeii one of the best preserved perfumeries from Roman times

They find in Pompeii one of the best preserved perfumeries from Roman times

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Archaeologists from the University of Granada, the Valencian Institute of Restoration and the Municipal Archaeological Research Service of Valencia, who have been working for more than a decade inPompeii (Italy), has released one of thebest-preserved perfumeries from Roman times, which they have found and analyzed.

The results of this study have been published in a volume dedicated to handicrafts in Antiquity by the publishing houseArchaeopress Archeology (2020), and they are the result of several research projects in which, in addition to addressing the history of this house, the craft perfume maker has also been valued.

It is aperfume production office located in the Ariadna's house, an imposingdomus(House of families of a certain economic level) located in the neuralgic heart of this bell city, which had a long life since II BC. untilVesuvius eruption (AD 79).

Specifically, this productive complex was located on one of the flanks of the southern entrance to thedomus.

Initially, this store and laboratory had contact with the residential space but, in a second moment, it became independent allowing only access from a commercial road called Via degli Augustali in front of the great market from the city.

A union organization

Although this Roman perfumery It was active since the beginning of the 1st AD. until about half of the 1st A.D. (when several seismic milestones occurred), there is evidence that this manufacture was developed in the area since at least II BC.

This crystallization of space has made it possible to define a union organization that was perpetuated over time.

"In addition to a huge amount ofjars and ceramic and vitreous ointments, which give good proof of the sale of perfumes and ointments to the public that was carried out in this store, we have also been able to analyze the entire production chain and shed light on how these essences were produced, with new unknown data to date ”, he explainsMacarena Bustamante-Álvarez, researcher at the UGR and one of the authors.

The first step in the elaboration of Roman perfumes consisted of thepressing olives and flowers to obtain the oily base of the product, as well as theflower essences.

Archaeologists have located in the perfumery studied remains of a press that would allow extracting the juices from olives and flowers, mostly roses from Campania, characterized in classical sources as "more perfumed than the rest”.

Both resulting products were finished by mixing in basins with hydraulic coating, also using as binder somejellies of animal origin concentrated in some specific parts of the animal, mainly heads and lower limbs of suids.

Once macerated, these essences could be bottled and they were ready for purchase.

The role of perfumes in Rome

“In our study, we also propose that cosmetic ointments be prepared in these facilities using fats similar to the current lanolin (a paste generated by animal sebaceous glands, mainly ovicáprids), a fact that is deduced from the nearby location of alanification office, that is, a place where wool was washed and worked. In those first washes of the still dirty wool, this fat was extracted, which served as the basis for some cosmetic preparations ”, explains Bustamante-Álvarez.

In relation to what was the function of perfumes in ancient times, the researchers affirm that, in addition to the possible practicescosmetic andhygienic similar to today, they could havevotive functions, "For example, in funeral rites when the body was anointed to regain lost decorum and get closer to divinity", says the researcher.

On other occasions, Roman perfumes were used as simple gifts that an individual made in order to seek the favor of his fellow citizens, in the case of women.sparsions (sprinkles) that were made in public shows; or to feed the deposits of thelucernae (lamps) so that their lighting was accompanied by smell.


M. Bustamante-Álvarez and A. Ribera (2020), “Production Moments and Areas in a Big House in Pompeii: The House of Ariadnefrom the 2nd Century BC to AD 79.”, A. K. Hodgkinson and C. Lelek (ed.)Approaches to theAnalysis of ProductionActivity at ArchaeologicalSites, ArchaeopressArcheology, Oxford, pp. 25-38.

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