Ancient Medicine Secrets in Wreck

Date: 1/2/2011

The ship dates to about 130BC and went down in the Gulf of Baratti off the Tuscany coast. In the 1980s, divers retrieved several tin containers, 136 vials made of boxwood, a locker and medical tools. The large number of vials suggests the medicines were being shipped rather than being used by the ships doctor. Samples from two tablets analysed at the Smithsonian Centre for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics reveal a dried concoction of medicinal herbs, including celery, alfalfa and wild onion, bound together with clay and zinc. The tablets might have been used to treat skin conditions or dissolved in water or wine for intestinal ailments such as dysentery, said Alain Touwaide, historian of sciences in the department of botany at the Smithsonians National Museum of Natural History. The tests confirm that medicines written about in ancient texts were used, said Mr Touwaide.

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