Treasures of the Black Death Yields a Scent Bottle: Upcoming Exhibition at the Wallace Collection {Scented Paths & Fragrant Addresses}

A fascinating exhibition on the Treasures of the Black Death will open on February 19, 2009 and run until May 10, 2009 at the Wallace Collection in London.

As the plague raged in 14th century Europe, Jewish communities were used as scapegoats and forced to leave town or even massacred. When expelled they had the time to bury their possessions carefully in the hope of retrieving their belongings when they would come back, seemingly leaving everything behind them.

In a black death treasure found in Erfurt, east of Frankfurt, a 650 years old medieval perfume bottle that would have been carried on a waist chain was found. L'Oréal scientists attempted to analyze the remnants of the scent...

but the quantities are too tiny, if there is anything left at all. One of the archaeologists in charge of the project, Dr. Sczech  says she can still smell something while her colleague is more dubitative (see video) saying "I think it's gone, only the romance of the story is left."

"There was too little left to analyse the components of the perfume, though the scientists proved the wadding packed into the bottle was cotton, not wool or flax - an extraordinarily rare material to have travelled from Egypt or the east to a small town in Germany. Too much had evaporated of the volatile perfumed oil, possibly from roses or jasmine, for analysis - and yet a faint green herby smell, a little like the ubiquitous 1970s hippy scent of patchouli, lingers in the bottle."


If one can't smell the perfume from the medieval ages, one can still listen to the lovely sound the musical ball inside the Jewish wedding ring makes when shaken (see video).

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2 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Fascinating! I love imagining what historic notables would have smelled like: Jesus, Cleopatra, Wilma Flintstone...

    Katie Puckrik
    • Isn't it? I would love to smell ancient artifacts with preserved smells on them, like ancient perfumed leather gloves which would have been miraculously preserved

      Chant Wagner

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