Chemical traces of medicinal herbs identified in ancient Egyptian wine jugs demonstrate that the culture employed herbal remedies 1500 years earlier than previously thought, reports linkurl:a study;http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/04/13/0811578106 in this week's PNAS.
The findings directly confirm the use of remedies described in a series of medical papyri written around 1850 BC, and point to the culture's use of wine as a vehicle for the delivery of medicine, the researchers write. "I think this is a really neat paper," said linkurl:Dennis Stevenson,;http://sciweb.nybg.org/Science2/Profile_8.asp vice president of research at the New York Botanical Garden, who was not involved in the research. "They have used archeology and ethnobotany combined with modern technology involving chemistry to build knowledge of what people were doing, what they were using." The papyri record has, until now, been the primary...
of a wine vessel from about 3150 BC
Image: German Archaeological Institute, Cairo
materia medicaDrosophilaCaenorhabditis elegansThe ScientistMore about the photo: The inside of this wine vessel sherd contains a yellowish residue, the accumulation of organic materials from the upper surface of the wine that once filled the inside of a jar from the tomb of Scorpion I at Abydos, one of the first kings of Egypt, ca. 3150 B.C. The residue, forming a circle around the vessel's interior, is slanted off from the horizontal because the jar with its liquid was tilted in antiquity. Analyses showed that herbs including balm, coriander, mint, sage and many more were steeped in the wine, to which pine resin and fig were also added. Ht. of sherd 33.5 cm.
Interested in reading more?
Become a Member of
Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?