Winter online exhibition
Frankincense and myrrh are both gum resins that come from the plant family Burseraceae.
Frankincense has long been valued for the sweet-smelling fumes it produces when burnt. Ancient Egyptians used the resin in religious rites, in anointing the mummified bodies of their kings, and to treat wounds and sores. Incense containing frankincense was found in Tutankhamen’s tomb. In the Christian faith, frankincense was one of the three gifts given to the infant Jesus by the wise men, along with gold and myrrh.
Myrrh is also pungent and is valued because of its medicinal properties. Ancient Egyptians used the resin to preserve mummies. Its antibiotic qualities reduced decay, it helped to prevent the tissues falling apart and it smelt sweet.
The images on this page show prints and samples from the economic botany collection of the botany section at World Museum. Economic botany covers the human use of plants ranging from food, medicine, utensils, clothing and transport. The collection contains over 3,000 specimens of raw plant materials, and a collection of around 10,000 wood samples. These collections are a valuable resource for the identification and study of plant biodiversity past, present and future.
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