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The word perfume is used today to describe scented mixtures and is derived from the Latin word, "per fumus," meaning through smoke. The word Perfumery refers to the art of making perfumes. Perfume was further refined by the Romans, the Persians and the Arabs. Although perfume and perfumery also existed in East Asia, much of its fragrances are incense based. The basic ingredients and methods of making perfumes are described by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia.
Perfume and perfumery also existed in Indus civilization (3300 BCE - 1300 BCE). One of the earliest distillation of Ittar was mentioned in the Hindu Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita.
The perfume references are part of a larger text called Brihat-Samhita written by Varahamihira, an Indian astronomer, mathematician and astrologer who lived in the historic city of Ujjain. He was one of the ‘nine jewels’ in the court of the Maharaja of Malwa. The perfume portion mainly deals with the manufacture of perfumes to benefit ‘royal personages and inmates of harems’. The text is written as Sanskrit slokas with commentary by a 10th Century Indian commentator Utpala.
To date, the oldest perfumery was discovered on the island of Cyprus. Excavations in 2004-5 under the initiative of an Italian archaeological team unearthed evidence of an enormous factory that existed 4,000 years ago during the Bronze Age. This covered an estimated surface area of over 4,000m² indicating that perfume manufacturing was on an industrial scale. The news of this discovery was reported extensively through the world press and many artifacts are already on display in Rome. The Bible describes a sacred perfume (Exodus 30:22-33) consisting of liquid myrrh, fragrant cinnamon, fragrant cane, and cassia. Its use was forbidden, except by the priests. The women wore perfume to present their beauty.
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