New archaeochemical evidence, backed up by increasingly sophisticated scientific testing techniques, are pointing to a long history of medicinal remedies tried, tested, and sometimes lost, throughout millennia of human history—herbs, tree resins, and other organic materials dispensed by ancient fermented beverages like wine and beer.
A new round of discoveries, made by a team of researchers led by the University of Pennsylvania Museum’s archaeochemist Dr. Patrick McGovern, provides the earliest direct chemical evidence for wine with organic medicinal additives. Testing was carried out on residues inside a jar from the tomb of one of the first pharaohs of Egypt, Scorpion I, excavated by the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo and dated to ca. 3150 BCE. A later Egyptian amphora, excavated by the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and dating from the 4th to 6th centuries AD from Gebel Adda in southern Egypt, also tested positive for wine with medicinal additives. Together, these results and others from other sites regionally and around the world, are laying the groundwork for ever more rigorous studies that detail what our ancestors imbibed to cure a variety of ailments, and perhaps, what they once knew may be “re-excavated” and applied to 21st century health and medicine. Read more