Thursday, September 2, 2010

Leather & Perfumery - Ancient Times - Part ONE

Modern European perfumery has its roots in the scenting of leather, which itself has a long tradition. + Q Perfume Blog invites her readers to feel the softness and the warmth of leathers. We will start our journey in the ancient times even before Christ to understand the origin of leathery notes in perfumery. We will continue to the stinky tanneries and the fine art of scenting gloves. We will see how leather and perfumes were always connected through history. We will end up our journey selecting beautiful leathery perfumes. So throw yourself on a leather chair or sofa and relax while reading me!
History of Leather

Leather has played an important role in the development of civilization. From prehistoric times men have used the skins of animals to satisfy their basic needs. They have used it to make clothing, footwear, belts, containers for liquids, boats, armor, shelter, carpets and even decorative attire. The principle protective armor of the Roman soldier was a heavy leather shirt. Although leather sometimes was used for protection against poor weather, its primary use was in footwear and belts. Animal skins were worn over the helmet with bearskins being popular among legionaries and feline among with Praetorians. Ancient Roman taxidermists would retain the entire body and the head, with the front legs tied to fasten over the armor. The animal's head would fit over the soldier's helmet, and mostly was worn by the Roman aquilifer, who carried the symbol of Rome into battle.The Romans rarely used goatskin for their leather, preferring pig or sheepskin, although the ideal would be the preferred leather was that most readily available – cattle skin. The thickest and most durable leather was used for shoe soles.

Romans at battle

Pieces of leather dating from 1300 B.C. have been found in Egypt. Egyptian women used leather ornaments that were as praised as jewelry. Primitive societies in Europe, Asia and North America all developed the technique of turning skins into leather goods. The Greeks were using leather garments in the age of the Homeric heroes (about 1200 B.C.), and the use of leather later spread throughout the Roman Empire.

Illustration copyright -

Tanned animal hide made the earliest shoes in China. They are ancestors of leather boots. In the ancient script engraved on bone and tortoise shell it depicts a whole animal hide was trimmed and stretched out. This would indicate that, at the time written Chinese was being formulated; socks and shoes were both related to leather. In ancient times there was no distinction between shoes and socks. The ancients would protect their feet by cutting out pieces of animal hide, wrapping them around their feet, and securing them with leather thongs. The earliest pair of leather shoes in existence in China is a 4,000-year-old pair of boots made from sheep hide, worn by a mummified female corpse discovered in the ruins of the ancient kingdom of Loulan, in the deserts of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The lower and upper parts were sewn together using thick hide threads.

The Indians of North America also had developed great skills in leatherwork before the coming of the white men. By accident or by trial and error, man discovered methods of preserving and softening leather treating animal skins with such things as smoke, grease and bark extracts.

Hebrews' Leather Solae - found in the Dead Sea desert -fist century BC

The art of tanning leather using the bark of trees probably originated among the Hebrews. In primitive societies, the art was a closely guarded secret passed down from father to son.

Romans, Greeks and Hebrews applied perfumed oils on belts, leather sandals and ornaments, either to perfume themselves or to better preserve the leather goods. Rosemary, marjoram, spikenard, jasmine, roses, anises, spices, lilies, orris, frankincense, myrrh, galbanum, cedar etc...mixed with vegetable oil bases such as olive and almond oil where the common perfumes of that time.

1 comment:

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