Have you ever noticed the strange cone things on peoples head in Egyptian tomb paintings?
Most history books will probably tell you that these cones were made of perfumed wax, oils or fat, which people would wear on top of their wigs to parties and feasts. I think the idea is that in the heat of the night the wax or fat would melt releasing wonderful smells and moisturising oils.
What do you think? It seems a little bit odd. The cones look like they have some sort of yellow petals or drips at the top. They seem to be worn mainly by women but also by men. They are worn by musicians and servants as well as the rich party goers. Why didn’t the cones just fall off? What kept them on?
In an attempt to see what these cones were all about we decided to have a go at making some.
How to make a perfumed cone
You will need:
- Some beeswax and/or lard, you could also try melting down some old candles
- Some perfumed oils, flower petals or anything else you can think of to decorate your cone.
- A mould – we had an old candle mould, but we also used an old yogurt pot (in Ancient Egypt these cones came in a lot of different shapes and sizes!)
Firstly you will need to melt the wax or lard. The wax needs to be melted in a double boiler on the stove so you will need to get a grown up to help with this. The wax goes into a old tin in a pan of gently boiling water and should melt slowly. The lard can go straight into a pan to be melted.
Once they are melted you can stir in the perfumed oil.
Put some petals or other decoration into the moulds then gently pour in your lard or wax.
Leave it to set.
Once it is cold and hard you can take it out of the mould.
The results – what do you think?
- Would you like to wear one on your head?
- Are you able to balance it on your head?
- Does it smell nice?
Our one made of lard was a bit yukky and squidgy to be honest, and it still smelt of lard even though we had put lots of perfume in it. Nobody wanted to put it on their head!
The beeswax one was just like a scented candle – we don’t think it would ever melt and it didn’t smell very strongly.
What other clues are there?
Archaeologists have never actually found a cone, nor anything like a mould that could have been used to make them, although they knew that the Egyptians certainly used to wear perfumed oils.
There is no direct evidence to suggest that these were made of perfumed wax, oils or fat, it was just an idea that someone had and no-one else could come up with a better one.
Some recent studies have suggested that the cones were used as symbols in the tomb paintings rather than being real objects. Maybe the cone shows that the person was wearing perfume, or perhaps it represents the soul of the dead person.
So what do you think they are?
- a) cones made of perfumed wax, oils or fats
- b) a symbol to show that person was wearing perfume
- c) a symbol to represent the soul of the dead
- d) none of the above!
Maybe you have a better idea! Please let me know if you do.