Ancient medicines analyzed
The tablets contain ingredients like pine resin, animal and vegetable fats.Six medicinal tablets over 2,000 years old discovered in a tin box onboard an ancient Roman shipwreck found off the coast of Italy have been analyzed by scientists, according to the BBC. Samples of the fragile material revealed that the pharmaceuticals contained animal and plant fats, pine resin and zinc compounds.
Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers said the medicine might have been used to treat eye infections.
“I am surprised by the fact that we found so many ingredients and they were very well preserved considering they were underwater for so much time,” said Maria Perla Colombini, professor of chemistry from the University of Pisa.
The shipwreck where the tablets were found dates as far back as 140-130 BC, and was thought to have been a trading ship sailing from Greece across the Mediterranean. Mass spectrometry revealed the tablets contained an array of ingredients. The team found pine resin, which has antibacterial properties. Animal and vegetable fats were also detected, among them possibly olive oil, known for its use in ancient perfumes and medicinal preparations.
They also found starch, thought to be an ingredient in early Roman cosmetics, and zinc compounds, which researchers think may have been the active ingredient in the tablets.