December, 2017: Cypriot Goddesses – The Institute for Art and Olfaction

The First Perfume Factory on Record.

Cyprus is a strange, complicated, and relatively small island, nestled halfway between the coasts of Turkey and Syria in the eastern reaches of the Mediterranean Sea. A political hot spot, it is also a literal one. With average summer temperatures reaching the sweltering nineties, it is no surprise that the island was claimed as the birthplace of an equally hot little number: Aphrodite.

It is in this caliente climate that a team of archeologists led by Maria Rosaria Belgiorno oversaw the unearthing of what is known as the world’s first full scale perfume factory. A whopping 3,000 square feet (big, even by American standards), this factory was part of a larger ancient industrial complex where interconnected workshops shared space and resources: A copper refining outfit, bronze production, weaving and textile dyeing, and – rather useful to the perfumers, perhaps – an olive oil factory.

Destroyed by an earthquake in 1800 BC, the perfume factory lay in untouched ruins for almost 4 millennia, its broken stills, mixing jugs, and perfume bottles silent underground testaments to the island’s ancient industrial claims. Once unearthed – joy of joys! – the scent-making paraphernalia still contained traces of its contents: Anise, pine, bergamot, almond, parsley and more, for a total 14 aromatics, all native to the region.

Was Aphrodite associated with the island because of its perfume industry? Or did the perfume industry arise through local exploitation of Aphrodite’s cachet? It’s anybody’s guess, but certainly the link between Aphrodite (the goddess of seduction and beauty), and scent (often seen as the most subliminal-magic-sexy-woo-woo of our senses) is an obvious one, and the scents – apparently – followed accordingly.

> December events at the IAO




December, 2017: Cypriot Goddesses
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