LECTURE: A smellwalk through ancient Egypt
WORKSHOP: Recreating Kyphi
Dora Goldsmith is a PhD researcher of Egyptology at the Freie Universität Berlin. The topic of her PhD project is the sense of smell in ancient Egypt, the exact title of her research being “The Archaeology of Smell in Ancient Egypt. A Cultural Anthropological Study Based on Written Sources”.
Dora holds a Master of Arts in Egyptology from the Freie Universität Berlin and a Bachelor of Arts in Archaeology (Biblical Archaeology and Classical Archaeology) and Ancient Near Eastern Studies (Egyptology and Assyriology) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Dora’s PhD project incorporates linguistic and cultural anthropological research. She carries out a semantic field research focusing on ten different words relevant to the sense of smell. The semantic field she works with includes the ancient Egyptians words xnm ‘to smell’, snn or snsn ‘to smell’, sTi ‘scent’, xnm.w ‘fragrance’, id.t ‘perfume’, xnS ‘to stink’, sxnS ‘to make stink’, Sni ‘stench’, bhd ‘scent’ or ‘to cense’ and qn ‘scent of fat’. She records and translates all ancient Egyptian texts including these words, which help her define the role of smells in the ancient Egyptian society. Thus, she employs written evidence and the method she uses is a linguistic one. However, written, linguistic evidence is used to examine the Egyptian culture as a whole from the aspect of sense of smell. This places her research in the field of cultural anthropology. Her published works include “Fish, Fowl and Stench in Ancient Egypt” (2019), “The Scents of Mummification and Ancient Egyptian Afterlife” (2019), “Eau de Cleopatra: Mendesian Perfume and Tell Timai” (2021), and “Smellscapes in Ancient Egypt” (2021).
In order to better apprehend the ancient Egyptian documents she works with, Dora also employs the method of experimental archaeology or “learning by doing”. She reconstructs the scents and perfumes the ancient sources describe. Two of her scientific scent reconstructions were exhibited in museums around the world – the Mendesian perfume at the National Geographic Museum in Washington DC, and the smell of mummification at the Okayama Orient Museum in Japan. Dora gives lectures with scent accompaniments and workshops around the world, where the long-lost world of the ancient Egyptians comes back to life through your nose. Throughout the workshops, Dora shares her knowledge of various aspect of the olfactory world of the ancient Egyptians, such as perfumery, mummification, garden or temple smells, and recreates their essence together with the participants.