helens_daughter (helens_daughter) wrote,


The Minoans and Mycenaeans loved scent.  Those who could afford it wore frankincense, myrrh, and saffron.  There was also expensive oil of lilies and oil of roses, but other, less exotic ingredients such as coriander and thyme were widely available.

The Mycenaeans acquired their perfumed oil industry, complete with its ubiquitous stirrup jars, from Minoan Crete and Cyprus.  Perfume manufacturers would have used olive oil rather than alcohol as their base, but for some scented products there is evidence that certain perfumers, known as "unguent boilers," manufactured fragrant creams.  From the Linear B tablets, we know that perfumed oil was known as we-a-re-pe (used with the corresponding ideogram for oil, OLES), and cream was called po-ro-ko-wa, (with the ideogram for unguent, AREPA.)  Sometimes cream was listed as a liquid measure, where it might have had the consistency of a lotion, where not as much solid fat was used.

Pylos tablet Un 267 records a transaction between Alxoitas and an unguent boiler named Thyestes:

Thus, Alxoitas gave to Thyestes the unguent boiler aromatics for unguent destined for boiling: coriander AROMATIC 576 liters, cyperus (cypress) AROMATIC 576 liters...16 units, FRUITS 240 liters, WINE 576 liters, HONEY 58 liters, WOOL 6 kg, MUST 58 liters.

There's no mention of olive oil, and the fact that Thyestes is producing unguent means we're dealing with scented cream.  Some of the listed goods must have been Thyestes' fee for his services, but we're looking at large quantities of ingredients and product here, so this was evidently a large order, possibly meant for export.
Tags: cosmetics, linear b, minoans, mycenaeans, perfume, pylos
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