A Swiss fragrance chemist is traveling the world, trying to capture the scents of hundreds of rare and endangered species and archeologists are using modern analytical technologies to bring ancient scents to life.
Scientists at Bonn University’s Egyptian Museum, for example, are trying to raise from the dead, so to speak, the aroma of the contents of a 3,500-year-old perfume bottle from the reign of the Egyptian female pharaoh Hatshepsut.
“Smell is unique among the senses in the way it is processed by the brain — olfactory information travels directly to a brain region linked with the hippocampus and the amygdala, sites of memory and emotion,” writes Humphries.
“Scientists have suggested that the way smell is processed makes smell memories particularly strong and persistent. But outside of our memory, smells themselves are ephemeral: They are formed by volatile chemical compounds that can easily disperse and disintegrate. So smell is both a powerful part of our experiences and an evanescent one.”