World’s oldest pills treated sore eyes
2013 01 09

By Andy Coghlan | NewScientist.com

In ancient Rome, physicians treated sore eyes with the same active ingredients as today. So suggests an analysis of pills found on the Relitto del Pozzino, a cargo ship wrecked off the Italian coast in around 140 BC.

"To our knowledge, these are the oldest medical tablets ever analysed," says Erika Ribechini of the University of Pisa in Italy, head of a team analysing the relics. She thinks the disc-shaped tablets, 4 centimetres across and a centimetre thick, were likely dipped in water and dabbed directly on the eyes.

The tablets were mainly made of the zinc carbonates hydrozincite and smithsonite, echoing the widespread use of zinc-based minerals in today’s eye and skin medications. Ribechini says there is evidence that Pliny the Elder, the Roman physician, prescribed zinc compounds for these uses almost 250 years after the shipwreck in his seminal medical encyclopaedia, Naturalis Historia.

The tablets were also rich in plant and animal oils. Pollen grains from an olive tree suggest that olive oil was a key ingredient, just like it is today in many medical and beauty creams, says Ribechini.

The tablets were discovered in a sealed tin cylinder called a pyxis (see image above). The tin must have been airtight to protect its contents from oxygen corrosion.

"Findings of such ancient medicines are extremely rare, so preservation of the Pozzino tablets is a very lucky case," says Ribechini.

The cargo of the wreck, discovered in 1989, is rich in other medical equipment, including vials and special vessels for bloodletting. This suggests that one of the passengers may have been a physician.


Article from: newscientist.com





Related Articles
The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine
Neanderthals Found Certain Plants Important, Had Medicine
From The Boiling Tank to the Sauna: How Antlers Become Medicine
Powdered Mummy, Gladiator Blood, and other Historical Medicines Made from Human Corpses
The Gruesome History of Eating Corpses as Medicine


Latest News from our Front Page

Detekt: A New Malware Detection Tool That Can Expose Illegitimate State Surveillance
2014 11 21
Recent years have seen a boom in the adoption of surveillance technology by governments around the world, including spyware that provides its purchasers the unchecked ability to target remote Internet users’ computers, to read their personal emails, listen in on private audio calls, record keystrokes and passwords, and remotely activate their computer’s camera or microphone. EFF, together with Amnesty International, ...
New UK spy chief says tech giants aid terrorism, privacy not ‘absolute right’
2014 11 21
Robert Hannigan, the new head of GCHQ The new head of Britain’s GCHQ, the UK equivalent of the NSA in the U.S., said he believes privacy is not an absolute right and that tech giants must open themselves up to intelligence agencies. “GCHQ is happy to be part of a mature debate on privacy in the digital age,” Hannigan said. “But privacy ...
LOL: Atheist Feminist Pornographer Used as Moral Authority in T-shirt Row
2014 11 21
Dr. Matt Taylor was thrust into the headlines this last week, largely for his lead role in successfully landing a spacecraft on a comet 300 million miles from earth that travels at a speed of 85,000 mph. In short, Taylor and his colleagues pulled off one of the most amazing achievements in contemporary science and space exploration, and in a ...
Forty Years that Unmade France
2014 11 21
Eric Zemmour is a well-known French author and television personality. Of Algerian-Jewish origin, he may seem an unlikely spokesman for French tradition, but he has emerged in recent years as a prominent scourge of ideological orthodoxy. He is unquestionably the most prominent mainstream French commentator who speaks candidly about race. Eric Zemmour This role comes with a price. In 2011 he was ...
Richard Spencer Under Fire
2014 11 21
The Flathead Beacon has a story on the mobbing of Richard Spencer consequent to the publicity over the Budapest conference. The city council is being asked to “an ordinance barring hate-group activities in the community.” As several of the comments note, the First Amendment seems to be of no concern to these activists. The article is interesting ...
More News »