When we are looking at the feast scenes that are displayed on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs, definitely noticeable are pale yellow hills that are depicted above heads of the feast participants. Generally, these hills are perceived as decorations of egyptian wigs. Seems like this had been quite the widespread and characteristic fashion element during the times of New Kingdom.
Researchers of Ancient Egyptian culture and art based their conclusions on the quite recent discovery of archaeologists. In accordance with that, ancient Egyptian wig decorations have been named as "perfume cones." However, this bizarre arrangement on their wigs is so unique that it should be regarded as an old-time fashion accessory. Perfume cones once were used as symbolic and quite decorative items, but they also had an important functional role.
Odoriferous cones Egyptians began to use in the times of the New Kingdom. In particular, perfume cones became common during the time of 18. dynasty as evidenced by the many tomb paintings in which we can see feast participants - musicians and dancers, as well as guests. They are all wearing these strange cones on their heads.
It turns out that perfume cones could be made of creamy scents. However, it is seems like the cones that are used as decorations on Egyptian wigs during The New Kingdom were made from either aromatic resin, or ox fat impregnated with myrrh. During the feast, these cones, slowly melting, released a sweet aroma. It was a tradition among men and women to adorn their heads with perfume cones especially during the feasts and celebrations. In addition, in ancient Egypt it was the usual habit to offer those perfume cones to guests, as soon as they arrived at the celebration place. The guests received those refreshing perfume cones that were soaked in, aromatic substances, creating truly the right environment for celebrations. [2.]
The Assumptions, Hypotheses and The Insights of Historians
There are really a lot of assumptions regarding these perfume cones. Researchers are divided in their opinions on many issues ....
Here I will mention only a few of them:
1. What were the perfume substance composition for these cones?
2. How did they make perfume cones and how did they keep them on their heads?
3 Do they really used perfume cones or it is only a depiction in art?
Modern experiments showed that perfumed beeswax, essential oils and fats could also be used in Ancient Egypt. According of today's people's idea, all the substances mentioned above, were carried on the heads of Ancient Egyptians during the celebration. When nightly events started, these cones gradually melted, spreading a wonderful and sweet aroma, as well as these perfumes seemed as pleasant refreshments to guests... just like lemonade or any soft drink.
Judging from the tomb paintings as seen in the examples, quite noticeable are yellow flower petals on the top of some cones.
How those cones firmly clung to the heads?
Experiments showed that the wax did not melt so easily and animal fats werent thoroughly perfumed... So, how did really they spread the sweet aroma? ... Once again there are more questions than answers...
That's why I tried to find an answer in search of approval of existence of this cone or on the contrary - to find confirmation that cones were absent in Ancient Egypt.
Researchers have mentioned that the perfume cones were actually made of the shea butter by the addition of the flower petals, wax and essential oils.
Hieroglyphs message from an ancient Egyptian stone stele is quite clear - "perfume on their heads." [1. ]
And yet ... since the 50's of the 20th century, scientists have tried to challenge existence of the perfume cones in ancient Egypt. 21st century discoveries of archaeologists, however, confirmed their existence. There are indications of resin remains found on the mummy head in 2014. However, it still does not fully endorse the use of perfume cones.
According to some researchers' opinion, perfume cone usage in ancient Egypt is rather linked to the symbolic and aesthetic perceptions. It shows the fragrance concept itself - the physical, sensual and aesthetic aspects. Perfume has been widely applied in many Egyptian religious rituals, funerals, embalming and, of course, during the feast, where emphasis was placed on stimulating, sexuality-building role of perfume. [4.]
Besides, it has often been emphasized that the perfume cone depictions in ancient Egyptian art is likely to be too exaggerated. These cones are shown much bigger as they really were in the past. Also they are depicted in accordance with the canons of the ancient Egyptian idea of beautiful. In reality, such a perfume cone may have been a very little fat blob on top of the head.
Despite the rather different, often conflicting opinions, the picture of beautiful perfume cones on heads of feast participants, seems quite captivating. Moreover, during nightly events and feasting atmosphere it distributes sweet intoxicating fragrance....
Even nowdays this legendary adornment is able to generate interesting enough and inspiring story of the atmosphere of ancient times with its orientally legendary and fabulous presence.
References & Further Reading:
1. Lichtheim, M. Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol. 1, p. 196.
2.Parute E. Stila un modes enciklopēdija. - Rīga, Jumava, 2010.