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Ancient medical kit in shipwreck reveals ingredients of Roman medicine

Ancient medical kit in shipwreck reveals ingredients of Roman medicine

Archaeologists studying a merchant vessel sunk off the Tuscan coast around 120 BC found a surprise in 1998 – ancient medicinal pills the size of coins in tin boxes. Using next-generation DNA sequencing, Smithsonian scientists determined in 2011 that the pills contained crushed celery, onions, carrots, cabbage, alfalfa, chestnuts, radish, yarrow, parsley, nasturtium, hibiscus, and clay – probably to treat intestinal disorders. Dr. Alain Touwaide, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, says the remedies are documented in Ancient Greek medical texts, later modeled by Ancient Romans. These are the only known archaeological remains of ancient medicines.

Did you know? The Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions has the world's largest digital database of medical manuscripts.

2013