The remains of a perfume found in a Roman mausoleum under a private backyard in the city of Carmona in southwestern Spain have been discovered. defined as Kablin Pogostemonlike patchouli. This is the first time that a Roman-era perfume has been definitively identified.
The mausoleum was discovered in 2019 in the garden of a private house during renovations. The homeowner was lowering and leveling the ground and demolishing part of the old concrete wall when an arched hole formed underneath. Looking into the hole, the owner noticed a vaulted roof. He notified the Municipal Archaeological Service of the Seville City Council, who sent an archaeologist to inspect the structure.
They discovered a burial chamber consisting of eight locules (burial niches), six of which contained burial urns of various shapes and materials (limestone, glass) and funerary objects. Two halls were empty. Of the six, three contained the remains of men, and the other three contained the remains of women. The two empty ones show no sign that they were ever occupied.
The mausoleum was probably the tomb of a wealthy local family. The vaulted ceiling and walls of the room were decorated with geometric intersecting lines of bright red, and the quality of the items indicates that the family was very wealthy. The tomb has never been broken into, looted or damaged. It was found intact with funerary remains and funerary offerings, including pots, plates, glass and ceramic drinking vessels.
Loculus number seven held an egg-shaped lead case with an egg-shaped lid. Inside the lead vessel was a glass burial urn with a lid and two large handles. Inside the closed glass urn were the remains of a cloth bag, three round amber beads and an elegant ungentaria (a jar for ointment) carved from rock crystal with a sealed dolomite stopper. Inside was a frozen mass.
The tomb dates from the late 1st century BC or early 1st century AD, and the vessel was so effectively sealed with bitumen and dolomite stopper that it was still intact when it was found 2,000 years later. This gave archaeologists a unique opportunity to analyze the uncontaminated contents of a Roman perfume bottle.
Researchers have applied techniques such as X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy – energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), micro-Raman (µ-Raman) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) and gas chromatography-mass -spectrometry (GC-MS) to determine the chemical composition of the solid mass inside the rock crystal ointment and lid sealant.
The use of bitumen to seal and waterproof the dolomite plug was quite plausible, as the ointment could have been made in a perfume shop from elsewhere in the Roman Empire and subsequently purchased by the owners of the tomb. Therefore, to ensure that the ointment kept its contents intact for a long time, it was necessary to use a tightly closed waterproof stopper. To the best of our knowledge, this is possibly the first time that spirits from Roman times have been identified. Based on GC/MS analysis of the sample, it was patchouli. The results are consistent with the classical works, according to which perfume is composed of at least two different substances: an essential oil (or the leaves of the plant from which it was extracted) and a fatty material. The composition of the contents of the ointment corresponds to the composition of patchouli extract mixed with vegetable fat, as evidenced by the presence of β-sitosterol, stigmasterol and squalene. In addition, we were able to identify the cork material for Ungentarium, which was dolomite, a previously unreported choice for this type of object.
My friend is building a house and they found the entrance to an intact burial chamber that is over 2000 years old. pic.twitter.com/qDg7JnC5fm
— HAPPY (@HAPPY_PJMM) August 28, 2019