Rectangular stone
Mesopotamian tablet 1200 BCE
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Tapputi-Belatekallim (fl. c. 1200 BCE), also known as Taputti-belet-ekallim, was a Babylonian chemist and a royal perfume maker. Her name appears on a cuneiform text, in which she is described as an authority in her field. Little is known of Tapputi’s life, but one of her recipes has survived, a salve for the Babylonian king. Her description of how she used her still to refine her ingredients is the oldest known reference to such an apparatus, making her one of the earliest chemical engineers.[1]

The text is dated to the fifth regnal year of King Tukulti-Ninurta I. He is believed to have reigned from 1244–1208 BCE, which would mean that Taputti dictated her recipe to the scribe who created the tablet in 1239 BCE.[2]

Tapputi is not the only female chemist mentioned in the cuneiform tablets, but she is the only one whose full name appears. The first half of the name of another woman known only as [-]ninu has also survived.[3]

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Bibliography


Halton, C., & Svärd, S. (2017). Women’s Writings of Ancient Mesopotamia. Cambridge University Press.
Tsjeng, Z. (2018). Forgotten Women: The Scientists. Cassell Illustrated.