Today, gold, frankincense, and myrrh seem like unequal gifts. But in ancient times, the botanical extracts were worth the same, or even more. In the 1st century A.D., the Roman Empire was in deficit spending, Daly says, as it imported hundreds of tons of the smelly stuff each year. Daly likens frankincense fever to the oil wars fought in modern times. Hapshetsut’s spies, who ventured to the “Land of Punt,” or modern Eritrea, weren’t innocently looking for pretty plants. They were trying to secure their own homegrown sources of frankincense and myrrh, “because they were tired of paying through the nose for it,” Daly says. If cultivation didn’t work, conquering the land these plants naturally grew on would not have been above any of these ancient rulers.