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Shipwreck Find Tells About Medicine In Ancient Rome …

  • January 12th, 2013
  • Posted by EUEditor

roman-pills.jpg roman-ship.jpgScientists at the university in Pisa have identified a find from an ancient Roman shipwreck as a set of pills, evidently for treating eye infections.

The six grayish balls about four centimeters in diameter were kept in round tin pill-boxes; their composition includes two metal substances that contain zinc, which has anti-inflammatory and other medicinal properties, in a bees wax mass.

(Some linguists have been at work also, wondering about links between the words for “pill” and “eyewash”, in ancient language).

roman-bath.jpgThe merchant ship foundered near the Tuscan port of  Populonia some two thousand years ago, and was found in 1974.

The new medical discovery is expected to add to understanding of the state of medical knowledge and public health in the ancient world, especially in the Roman empire where hygienic practice  – notably keeping soldiers bathed and in good shape –  if mixed, was also advanced.



Sarah Everts,  “Ancient Roman medicine analysed”, Chemical and Engineering News, American Chemical Society, 10.1.13., (12.1.13).

Angela Harris, “Scientists analyse ancient pills found in Roman shipwreck”, Digital Journal, Toronto, 8.1.13., (12.1.13).

Pictures    nabatea