In a sense the origins of the industry lie in prehistory. At some point our ancestors found there was pleasure in the aroma of a flower, and that mixing certain herbs with food added relish; when this took place will never be known, but it could be said that at that point we became truly human.
Certainly our earliest ancestors had uses for aromatic plants; since burial sites have been well preserved, we know that they used aromatic plants as votive offerings to the gods and the supernatural world. By the time that writing developed in the fertile crescent of the Indus, Nile and Tigris valleys, we have many references to the use of herbs and spices. A crucial point is that the uses of flavourings and fragrances, in whatever form, are a feature of a society where at least one social stratum has the ‘disposable income’ to obtain them; however important they may be to the quality of life, flavours and perfumes are not (despite the efforts of marketing departments to convince us to the contrary) essential to the continuance of life. Thus throughout history we can see the uses of flavours or fragrances as reflecting either the success of a society, or its decadence, depending on the prejudices of the individual.
David Pybus  and Paul Jose Teisseire  have written excellent and amusing accounts of the development of the uses of fragrance, and the interested reader is directed there for more detailed accounts.
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