2,000-year-old pills shed light on ancient medicine

Published on December 21st, 2010 | by Admin

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pill

A small cache of pills have been found in a 2,000-year-old shipwreck, prompting an investigation into their medical properties.

Around 130 B.C., a ship, identified as the Relitto del Pozzino, sank off Tuscany, Italy. Among the artifacts found on board in 1989 were glass cups, a pitcher and ceramics, all of which suggested that the ship was sailing from the eastern Mediterranean area.

Its cargo also included a chest that contained various items related to the medical profession: a copper bleeding cup and 136 boxwood vials and tin containers.

Inside one of the tin vessels, archaeologists found several circular tablets, many still completely dry.

“They were less than an inch in diameter and about a third to a half inch thick,” said Robert Fleischer, an evolutionary geneticist with the Smithsonian’s Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics in Washington, D.C.

He told AOL News that the tablets were “very tightly compressed vegetation in a very solid pill. In fact, you had to use a scalpel to cut pieces off of it.

“But under a microscope, you could see plant fibers in it. It probably wasn’t something that was taken whole.

[Full story]

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