Ancient perfume bottles in Pompeii, Italy, Sharon Falsetto
Ancient perfume bottles in Pompeii, Italy, Sharon Falsetto

This week I wanted to review a book that is not “technically” an aromatherapy book as seen by the masses, but it is certainly one that deals with the use of aromatic plants and how they were used in ancient Pompeii in Italy; it is a book that is difficult to find.  I picked it up on a trip to Italy in 2008 – and I would say that if you are over there, it is certainly worth the effort of tracking it down, if history, use of ancient plants and ancient perfumes is your thing!  You may be able to find it online or in a specialized book store too, depending where you live, but in researching for this Aromatherapy Notes post, my searches came up empty for it.  So, what is the book in question this week in my series of aromatherapy book reviews?

Ancient Perfume Making in Pompeii

Profumi, Ungenti e Acconciature in Pompei Antica, or Perfumes, Ungents and Hairstyles in Pompeii, is written by Carlo Giordano and Angelandrea Casale; the text is split in the book so that each page contains the Italian and English language translation.  For those that know their history, you will know that the ancient city of Pompeii was destroyed in 79 AD by the massive eruption of Mount Vesuvius; most of the city lay undisturbed (and preserved) under layers of ashes for centuries before excavations begin.

The course of the excavations unearthed many historical artifacts, including the discovery of ancient perfume making equipment and the conclusion that many plants in Pompeii were used to make natural perfumes; perfumes were used a lot in skin care and had therapeutic properties, unlike the synthetically produced perfumes today.

Aromatic Plants Used in Pompeii

Giordano and Casale write about how plants such as jasmine, rose, myrrh, lily and laurel were used as ingredients in perfumes and the uses which those perfumes were used for; in addition, they cover the subject of how these plants were distilled into perfumes, the prevalence of plants in the surrounding Italian countryside and how Italian women used the natural plant extracts in their everyday skincare routines.  The book also has a section on hairstyles, but it was the perfumes and ungents section (a form of solid perfume) that predominately interested me 🙂

You won’t learn how to use essential oils, about essential oil properties or discover scientific studies on essential oils in this book – but you will discover a fascinating history lesson in the ancient art of perfume making in Pompeii!  If you want to see photos from an exhibition on ancient plants in Pompeii that I took on my trip, click through to my article on the main aromatherapy website:

Gardens of Pompeii

I have written about this subject in several other articles too; if you are lucky enough to come across Perfumes, Ungents and Hairstyles in Pompeii on your travels, I would highly recommend investing the money in it!

Next week, I will have another interview with an Australian aromatherapist, followed by a more “traditional” aromatherapy book review the week after!  Enjoy!

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