Why do things always smell?
A direct question begs a direct answer: Because odors are unfortunately
unavoidable. They follow us our whole lives – whether we want
them to or not. Just about every living organism or object, regardless
of whether it’s a plant, fish, animal, person, lounge chair
or television, emits odor molecules. Our ability to smell odors
depends on the number of odor molecules present. And, because our
body is constructed in a way that warns us against rotten food or
fire, our noses never stops working.
What would happen if we could visit the past and smell the odors
of the various centuries down the ages? Let’s do some exploring.
A short journey through the history of odors
Big animals, big odors
In the history of creation it was said “let
there be light.” But really it should be “and let there
be odors.” Long before the first living creatures crawled
onto our shores, animals lived and bred in water – and mostly
through their sense of smell. Just like dinosaurs.
||The desert would have been a far more appealing
place to our discriminating noses. Rainforests with their rotting
vegetation and decomposing dinosaurs, swamps that continuously
gave off poisonous gases, and everywhere the stench of excrement
from giant animals, such as the brontosaurus shown above –
I’m afraid that the prehistoric age may well have been
a smelly one. Just try and imagine a dog dropping or a cow pat
a hundred times bigger, then you’ll have an idea of what
we’re on about.
Yes to fur coats, no to deodorant
|So let us move forward to a more civilized period.
The Neanderthal proved to be very adept at creating his own
sense of fashion. However, it would have been a testy time for
our noses if we ever visited him at home with his family. Shower
gel, soap and the Zielonka Bodystick had not yet been invented.
Neanderthals lived in caves where the scent marks of former
“tenants”, the wild bears, were ever present.
Luckily, relief was on its way in the next thousand years:
The victory of the bath houses
The ancient Romans were the first to
set the scene for a more fragrant lifestyle with their bath houses
and manner of abode. You can see in the picture above a layout of
a bath house that was built by the Romans in Wales. Scent was already
embedded in the lives of the people of the early civilizations.
By burning scented substances, the ancient Greeks believed they
could communicate with their gods with the rising smoke.
Bath houses continued well into the medieval ages. Unfortunately
at the same time another development took place that would have
pleased our olfactory organs even less:
Life in medieval towns
|People kept pigsties next to their houses, rubbish
was thrown into the streets, and instead of toilets there were
holes in the ground, no sewerage system existed, in sum: it
stank to high heaven.
As if that wasn’t bad enough; during the years of the
Black Death odors became even worse. People were convinced
that water opened the pores to contaminated air. The most
useful combatant against odors, washing, became a taboo. Instead
of washing with water, people rubbed clean cloths over themselves,
soap was replaced by powder.
Even after the worst of the plague had
passed, daily life in medieval towns did not improve. And there
was no relief for the nose in churches either. Rich people were
buried in leaky and moist catacombs under churches. This led to
a rising smell of decay within the walls of prayer.
Le Mief c'est moi
Nonetheless, a small “justice”
did occur: not even the king could escape the nauseatingly bad smells.
Here, an original report about the stench in Versailles:
“The bad odors in the park, in the gardens and
even in the palace give way to feelings of nausea. The passages,
the inner courts, the palace wings and the corridors are full of
urine and faeces; the Avenue de Saint Cloud is covered in fresh
filth and dead cats. The cows drop their manure in the large gallery,
and the stench does not stop before the doors of the royal bedchambers.”
And what was the odor like among the North American
Indians? Or, to put it another way:
Was life in a tent a better alternative?
||To be sure, teepees must have been an improvement.
They had ideal ventilation systems, domestic animals were kept
outside and the indigenous folk of America could decide whether
to cook inside or out. But in winter the teepee was crowded
and stuffy, and the rivers and lakes for bathing were frozen
And of course the custom of rubbing yourself down with buffalo
fat was perhaps not really to our modern noses’ liking
– so let’s return to the present again.
The best of both worlds...
Today, thanks to inventions such as sewerage systems,
cleverly planned houses and running water, we live in a world of
luxury for our olfactory glands.
...and our odor problems today
Well, paradoxically, that is exactly
the reason why we are so sensitive to bad odors. In contrast to
the inhabitants of medieval cities who encountered bad odors every
day, our noses have been saved from many smells. Nevertheless, we
still have a very refined sense of smell that has protected us against
rotten food, wild animals and other dangers. Today, even the slightest
odor can quickly become an annoyance.
And yet, for the first time, there is a solution to all bad odors:
the Zielonka Smellkiller.
And what’s even
better: our Zielonka Smellkiller works without using any chemicals
and can neutralize even the worst smells, and not just by blanketing
them with another odor.