Zinc compounds as active substance
Microscopy, gas chromatography and other modern analytical methods revealed that the tablets consisted largely of two finely powdered zinc compounds. "The beneficial effect of zinc was already known in antiquity, " explain the researchers. For example, Pliny the Elder already reports that this metal works against skin and eye inflammation. Even today, zinc is used in ointments to relieve skin rashes.
In addition, the ancient tablets contained but also remains of beeswax, starch, pine resin and various vegetable oils, as the scientists report. Also charcoal residues and various plant pollen and fibers were found in the ancient preparations. Whether these ingredients have been added for medical benefit at the time is unclear. The resin could, for example, also have been used for the preservation of specifically the oil-containing ingredients, the researchers speculate. The vegetable fibers may have been used to make the tablets more stable and protect them from crumbling. display
Medicine against eye inflammation
But why did the ancient doctor use these unusually large tablets? "The composition and shape of the tablets indicate that they have been used to treat ophthalmia, " report Giachi and her colleagues. Presumably, they were dissolved and then used the liquid to bathe the eyes. Alternatively, the tablets could have been heated and then painted as an ointment.
In ancient times, eye ointments and waters were called "collyrium". As this is derived from the Greek name for a small, round loaf, researchers believe that this could indicate that such remedies were often made and transported in the form of round tablets - much like the shipwreck finds now being analyzed.Gianna Giachi (Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Toscana, Florence) et al .: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1216776110 © wissenschaft.de - === Nadja Podbregar