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Postdoctoral Researcher of Archaeological Chemistry

Barbara Huber is an archaeo-chemist specializing in the study of human-plant relationships throughout history, with a keen interest of how past societies made use of natural plant resources, especially aromatic, medicinal, and bioactive plants. Her research delves into the use, consumption and trade of these plants and their therapeutic, preservative and olfactory benefits.

She also focuses on uncovering the historical significance of scents and perfumes. Recognizing that smell has been largely overlooked by historians and archaeologists, she is working on innovative ways to decode ancient aromas. She uses advanced biomolecular approaches, including the analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), lipids and metabolites recovered from archaeological artefacts, such as incense burners, perfume flasks and ointment containers.


Papers & Journal Articles

April 3, 2024

Nature Communications: Archaeological and molecular evidence for ancient chickens in Central Asia

Abstract Journal link: The origins and dispersal of the chicken across the ancient world remains one of the most enigmatic questions regarding Eurasian domesticated animals. The lack of agreement…
October 11, 2023

Nature Human Behaviour: How to use modern science to reconstruct ancient scents

Link to full article: Abstract Olfaction has profoundly shaped human experience and behaviour from the deep past through to the present day. Advanced biomolecular and ‘omics’ sciences enable more…
August 31, 2023

Scientific Reports: Biomolecular characterization of 3500-year-old ancient Egyptian mummification balms from the Valley of the Kings

Abstract Journal link: Ancient Egyptian mummification was practiced for nearly 4000 years as a key feature of some of the most complex mortuary practices documented in the archaeological record.…

Media & Press

Recent articles in popular media

Media Articles
December 6, 2023

Ägyptens Duft für das Jenseits – Parfüm aus dem Land der Pharaonen, von Markus Brauer

Media Articles
September 14, 2023

Atlas Obscura: Get a Whiff of Ancient Egypt’s ‘Scent of Eternity’, by Roxanne Hoorn

Media Articles
September 11, 2023

EL PAIS: Researchers find that an Egyptian mummy’s eternal balms smelled of pine, beeswax and bitumen, by Marc Español

Podcasts & Radio

Podcasts & Radio
August 31, 2023

euronews: Scientists recreate the fragrance of an ancient Egyptian mummy

Podcasts & Radio
May 21, 2022

Australian Broadcasting Corporation: What did ancient Egypt smell like? By Jonathan Green

Podcasts & Radio
April 16, 2022

CBC: Quirks and Quarks with Bob McDonald, What did history smell like? New field of science aims to find out

Get in touch


Barbara Huber on Twitter/X