Frankincense through the ages

NEWS Oman' frankincense

Principal historic stages

unesco heritage

2000 CE

World Heritage
UNESCO inscribed four new World Heritage Sites in Oman, collectively called “The Land of Frankincense”
Before 1970, bedouins still used frankincense as currency
New economy

1900 CE

Economic news
The beginning of the era of oil, black gold supplanting white after the World War II. The fatal blow for the mass Omani export of frankincense was delivered by the development of a synthetic substitute.

1285 CE

Discovery of a new world
Marco Polo
recorded in his journal that Al-Mansura (Al Baleed) was engaged in exporting both white incense and horses with China.
Frankincense route in asia

695 CE

Routes maritimes
From Dhofar to China
From the first century ships were plying their periplous route laden with aromatics. Maritime routes from the Arabian Gulf to South China Sea.
Do you know what Hong Kong means?
Etymology of Hong Kong’s name (fragant harbour) relates the reception and processing of incense.
Brûle encens mésopotamie

300 CE

Roman economic crisis
The economic crisis within the Roman Empire meant that demand for frankincense and other eastern luxuries went into steep decline. This marked the fragmentation and weakening of the incense kingdoms of southern Arabia.

Birth of jesus christ

The event of Christianity
At the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, who was given frankincense, as well as myrrh and gold, the incense trade was at its height.

From 500 BC to birth of J.C.

Frankincense trade

Alexander the Great was so enthralled by the prospect of owning the means of production of frankincense that he considered adding Arabia to his conquests. Only his death prevented him from fulfilling his ambition.

nabatéens The grandeur of the Nabatean cities flourished, as Petra gained profits from the Arabian incense trade by selling to the Greek and then Roman Empire.

In Wadi Rum (south of Petra), a 3,000-year-old cave paintings depict camel caravans passing through the valley and the bandits who preyed on them.

Frankincense and the roman empire

500 BC

The peak of incense

Rome The sacred incense was an indispensable element of imperial culture for devotional and state ceremonies. During the Roman Empire, 2.5 to 3 million kilogrammes of frankincense were reported to have been exported to Rome from Southern Arabia.

Persia In Persepolis and Susa (modern day Iran), frankincense was a prized commodity. Monuments at the Persepolis show King Darius I himself offering incense.

Greece Although Greeks were importing incense from Syria (5th century BCE), Herodotus knew that frankincense came from further south of Arabia.

1000 BC

Use of incense

950 BCE. A visit by Queen Sheeba to King Solomon was to test his wisdom but almost to secure an agreement on frankincense and myrrh..

Sayhadic Incense trade saw growth of several kingdoms and its decline meant their extinction. These kingdoms emerged to the west of Dhofar (an area known in Middle Age as the Sayhad).
Incense offerings

1000 BC

Incense offerings in Egypt
In the wall reliefs of a Karnak temple, artwork depicting Ramses II offering an incense.
Queen Hatshepsut

1478 - 1457 BC

Egypt and its pharaohs
Queen Hatshepsut commissioned a big temple which she described as “a garden for my father Amun”. The temple was lined with incense-bearing plants including myrrh (and most likely, frankincense).
Incense Mystic

1800 BC

Spiritual incense
In temples for the Babylonian sun deity Baal and the Greek god Apollo, frankincense was burnt in large quantities as a chemical substance with the power to bring devotees close to their divinities.
The frankincense routes

2000 BC

The incense route
By 2000 BC, caravans were using the main south-north route following the coast of the Red Sea. The journey covers as much as 2,400 miles linking production areas with markets.
The civilization of perfumes

3000 BC

Importing natural incense

Babylon The Babylonians living in the Fertile Crescent region around 3000 to 600 BCE imported frankincense from Africa.

Egypt For almost thirty centuries, Ancient Egypt was the dominant civilization in the Mediterranean world, and perhaps the main frankincense consumers at that time

3500 BC

Ancient incense burner

The earliest tangible record of incense use in Mesopotamia is an incense burner found in the ruins of a temple at Tepe Gawra, near Mosul in modern Iraq


5000 - 4500 BC

Spice trade

Since frankincense plant distribution was restricted botanically to southern Arabia, the trade would necessarily have come northward either by land or sea.

Eastern Arabia by the third millennium BCE and most likely by circa 5000 BCE.

Salalah - Dhofar region of Oman

6000 BC

Dhofar region
Before 6000 BCE, monsoon rains disappeared in the Arabian region and frankincense trees prospered in the drought conditions. - C.Times of Oman -

Frankincense of Oman

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