Evidence of an ancient Bronze Age drug trade involving painkiller medication

Anita Durairaj

According to Arkeonews, Turkish archaeologists excavating an early Bronze Age site in Eskisehir (Turkey) have found remains of painkiller medicines in containers that are 4500 years old.

Traces of painkiller ingredients were found in special vessels called depas. The depas resemble double-handled beverage containers and archaeologists believe that the Bronze Age people stored their painkillers in these containers. They would also prepare and drink the medicine from these containers.

The painkillers that the Bronze Age people consumed were prepared from green leafy plants, poppy, and olive oil. There were also traces of salicylic acid in the depas. Salicylic acid is used in modern painkillers and is responsible for the anti-inflammatory action of aspirin.

The depas were most likely made out of ceramic. The ceramic has a porous structure that was able to retain the products stored in the vessel. Thus, the molecular residues of the painkillers remained behind for researchers to discover many years later.

There is already evidence that drug use in the Bronze Age was used to relieve pain. The Los Angeles Times reported that ancient ceramic pots have been used throughout the Middle East as far back as 1400 BC. The ceramic pots were thin-necked vessels with round bases and resembled opium poppy pods. The researchers believe that the vessels were used in the harvesting of opium.

The Bronze Age drug trade supplied narcotics and was used in the treatment of childbirth and diseases. This indicated that the Bronze Age people had a knowledge of medicine even back then.

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Trained with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati, I write unique and interesting articles focused on science, history, and current events.

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